According to recent pieces in the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune, physical education, health, the arts, and college and career readiness courses will no longer be core requirements in Utah middle schools. The board vote was close (9-6) and it’s important that all state board members hear from Utahns across the state who find this decision, and its expedited timeline, troubling.
The arts and PE have long struggled to gain support in state and district curriculum but it’s health that is most troubling given Utah’s extremely high suicide rate among secondary school students as well as the lack of appropriate boundary education preventing sexual abuse during adolescence.
CALL TO ACTION
- Give feedback to school board members. Find your board member here, then write them an e-mail or give them a phone call and explain why this drastic change negatively impacts you, your children, your students and Utah communities. Copy Superintendent Sydnee Dickson (who opposed the measure) at email@example.com on your email.
- Many Utah families can afford to address these curricular areas outside of school. This is less true for students at Title 1 Schools in our city center and even more true in rural districts where extracurricular offerings are fewer. All areas of learning should be available to all students, regardless of socioeconomic status.
- State leaders, including Orrin Hatch, have worked toward national measures to address teen suicide. A reduction in health education across Utah school districts is out of step with what Utah voters have claimed is necessary including not only suicide prevention but also more boundary education to address sexual abuse.
- We are a state that values choice at every turn — we want our state, school districts, and families to make their own choices. As Carol Lear suggested in the vote, we are forgetting students also need to make choices, and removing these options from core curriculum limits their ability to do so.
- We shouldn’t accept the standards in the arts have to be the bare minimum and instead could find ways to support co-curricular partners (like Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet in PA) so students of all abilities have access to high quality courses rather than only students with high median income families who can afford certain arts programs
- It is HIGH ACHIEVING kids in suburban and rural districts who are most likely to commit suicide. To eliminate health is to harm the very group of children proponents of these cuts are claiming to support because the cuts give kids no space for mental health support and eliminate critical reprieve from the demands of high achievement via imaginative, physical and creative outlets.
Find more talking points in this SL Trib op-ed, “Changes in curriculum are harmful to Utah’s children.”