Friday, August 2, 2013

Of the Alisal, after-school programs, and journalists taking sides

Journalists are not supposed to take sides. I'm in luck, because regarding this issue, I'm truly torn up, so I won't even have to.

The issue I'm referring to is the brouhaha du jour at the Alisal. Namely, the administrator's decision to drop Yosal, the classical music program based on El Sistema, to replace it with more culturally sensitive ballet folklórico. Read about it here.

Superintendent John Ramirez says the decision is based on economics. The $95,000 now in place for Yosal could be used to fund ballet folklórico, and serve four times as many children as the Yosal program.

I can see where Ramirez and the board are coming from. When you live in a poor community, where resources are scarce, you want to maximize them. From that perspective, the decision to ditch Yosal in favor of something more economical and more inclusive seems reasonable.

But the classical music buff in me sees it differently. El Sistema has a proven track record of creating greatness, as seen in L.A. Symphony Conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Bolivarian Orchestra. Just this week, the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar de Venezuela and the Coral Nacional Juvenil Simón Bolívar de Venezuela took Salzburg by storm during its prominent cultural festival. Read all about it here.

Dilemmas, dilemmas. Do you fund a world class program for a few of your children, in the hopes that they'll have a shot of reaching unimaginable heights? Or do you fund grass-roots programs just to keep them entertained?

If you had five children, would you sacrifice four of them to send one to the best university in the world? Or would you treat them all equally and send them to affordable community colleges? (Which are perfectly fine, by the way).

It's a tough one for me. I would absolutely love to see the next Dudamel come out of the Alisal. Imagine the glory.

But I'd also love to see gang violence eradicated. I'd love to see fewer deaths, fewer children in jail.

Somebody with deep pockets out there, please, step up and fund Yosal for the Alisal!

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