Somehow, the image of a professional classical musician lacks appeal to the average American. The glitz and glamour dims in the dazzling light of an NBA athlete. Who would a child rather grow up to be, Michael Jordan or Itzhak Perlman? Most likely, the answer would be Michael Jordan. And why not? Michael Jordan earns much more money, fame and respect than Itzhak Perlman.
This unbalanced favor is reflected in American education. Many times a sports program will thrive at the expense of an arts program. At my own high school, the volleyball, basketball and baseball teams have earned the support of many fans due to recent championships; even though the band also has won prestigious competitions, only band members' parents show up to cheer them on and attend concerts. The photography and art classes are ignored. The athlete of the month has his or her name posted on the school marquee; there is no artist-of-the-month award.
Recent funding also evinces inequality. My school sold some land and used the available money to build tennis courts, put up bleachers and relocate sports fields. No money was directed to the deteriorating band and theater facility or any musical instruments for students. In many schools, when the budget is cut, the arts are the first to go.
My high school does not have an orchestra or dance team. Hardly a student has heard the choir or attended a theater event. How much is missed to not hear the sounds of a Beethoven symphony, to not witness a Tchaikovsky ballet, to not watch a Shakespearean play.
An argument defending this asymmetrical design might be that sports builds self-esteem, confidence and teamwork, therefore the benefits of these are worth investing in. These qualities can be derived from the arts as well. It is as beneficial to play a hard music passage as it is to slam-dunk.
May Ling Halim, 16, is entering her senior year at Ocean View High School in Huntington Beach. She has participated on varsity volleyball and track teams and has studied violin for 12 years and cello for five.