By Dennis M. Ayotte, Jr.
La Prensa de San Antonio
SAN ANTONIO — Low-income children, particularly black and Hispanic kids, are suffering the most from a decline in childhood arts education after state lawmakers slashed more than $4 billion from education this school year — one of the largest cuts in state history — and more than 12,000 teachers and support staff have been laid off.
In the most recent government study, more than 50 percent of young black adults surveyed in 1982 said they received a childhood arts education compared to 26 percent in 2008, a 49 percent drop and the largest among all race groups.
Among whites, childhood arts education dropped only five percent in the same time period.
The findings, released by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), give merit to the idea that budget cuts affecting arts programs are heavily concentrated in black and Hispanic school districts.
“We are the majority of San Antonio but the minority of the art schools. We are the majority of San Antonio but the minority in the graduate programs with the Arts and Letters,” Dr. Eduardo Jiménez Mayo said.
“So one has to ask oneself what is happening here,” he adds.
“We are also dropping out of school at a tremendous rate. We need role models, we need people to tell us we have reached the pinnacle of success, we’re renowned all over the world and we’re Latino just like you are—they’re men and women, both scientists and writers who’ve achieved tremendous success in both the sciences and the arts.”
In an effort to do so Mayo, organized the event “Creativity and the Brain,” with a purpose to build bridges between the United States and Mexico on an intellectual level and close the gap between the sciences and arts.
Among the men invited to the conference were Horacio Sentíes Madrid, a neurologist and clinical researcher at the Mexican National Institute of Neurology. His expertise in the field of music and the brain is comparable to that of Oliver Sacks in the United States.
Sacks was the first to receive honors as a Columbia University Artist, in recognition of his contributions to the arts. He is a bestselling author, and professor of neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. In all he’s authored ten books, including The Mind’s Eye, Musicophilia, Awakenings and “The Man Who Mistook His Wifefor a Hat.”
Also present was Jesús Ramírez Bermúdez a neurophsychiatrist affiliated with the Mexican National Institute of Neuroscience and Neurosurgery who also wrote “A Brief Clinical History of the Soul.”
Bermúdez was able to deconstruct the traditional pretentions of objectivity governing the doctor-patient relationship, reminding his readers that there can be wisdom in madness just as there can be ignorance in sanity.
“They are the living word,” Mayo said. “You can read a book; you can think about, reflect on it and try to learn from it but when the word takes flesh that’s different, when it’s right there before your very eyes it’s different.”
Mayo explained what should resonate most after the conference, “Number one, it’s about the kids having role models, number two seeing that the arts and sciences aren’t separate as they teach it in school. They are bridges between the two you can’t separate them. Number three creativity is what takes you to the next level it’s not just memorizing a formula and passing a test. It’s learning how to think on your feet and come up with solutions to everyday problems which is what makes this world a better place. So that is the brain’s highest function — creativity.”