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Annenberg Gift to Schools

January 04, 1994

Bravo to Walter Annenberg and his efforts to improve the quality of education through his generous contribution (Dec. 17).

Over the last couple of years I have been a frequent guest in schools, most often invited by kindergartens and colleges. The environments differ only in scale. In the beginners' classroom and on university campuses the same opportunities and facilities exist. In kindergarten, however, the resources are in one room, with access for all. In college, the resources are in separate buildings, with limited availability. But the most apparent difference is in the self-image of the students.

Ask a kindergarten class, "How many of you can draw?" and all the hands shoot up. Yes, of course we can draw--all of us. What can you draw? Anything!

How many of you can sing? All hands. Of course we sing! What can you sing? Anything!

How many of you dance? Unanimous again. What kind of music do you like to dance to? Any kind!

Do you like to act in plays? Yes! Do you play musical instruments? Yes! Do you write poetry? Yes! Can you read and write and count? Yes! We're learning that stuff now.

Their answer is yes! Over and over again, yes! The children are confident in spirit, infinite in resources, and eager to learn. Everything is still possible.

Try those same questions on a college audience. A small percentage of the students will raise their hands when asked if they draw or dance or sing or paint or act or play an instrument. Not infrequently, those who do raise their hands will want to qualify their response with their limitations: "I only play piano, I only draw horses, I only dance to rock and roll, I only sing in the shower."

When asked why the limitations, college students answer they do not have talent, are not majoring in the subject, or have not done any of these things since about third grade, or worse, that they are embarrassed for others to see them sing or dance or act.

What went wrong between kindergarten and college? What happened to "yes! Of course I can"?



Unfortunately, Walter Annenberg's sort of generosity does not usually inspire other multimillionaires, or even billionaires, to reach into their bulging mattresses and do some good for humanity with the contents.

During the Depression years of the '30s, when I was in school, there was little or no money around, but schools and libraries were not forced to close. Now, with so much money available, those institutions are in great trouble, obviously through mismanagement. Strange goings-on! I and millions of others thank God for Annenberg.



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