I was struck by the power of unintended consequences while watching a show about the science of dyslexia.
What hit me the most was a segment of the show where they were talking to a successful business man who had struggled with dyslexia his entire life and found a place he could succeed in the high school shop. His business was started by buying up the equipment from that same shop as the high school did as most schools have done: cut “non-essential” programs.
What struck me was that because the schools have chosen to cut the broadening curriculum like art, music and shop, there are kids today who will potentially never know success. And even worse, the kids who do well in the remaining classes, will never see that those kids who struggle with the college prep classes have abilities in different areas.
From my high-school experience, I distinctly remember that there were kids who just didn’t do well in the standard classes, but luckily for us we had art, music, home ec and shop. Because of those classes, I got to see some of those kids do amazing things that I simply didn’t have the skill to.
I saw incredible cabinetry built by a kid who literally couldn’t read (today he’d probably have been diagnosed with dyslexia and learned to read).
I recall other kids who built beautiful hot rods from piles of junk, amazing metal contraptions, and people who were able to shine in all sorts of ways that aren’t readily available to kids today.
So as an unintended consequence of “saving money”, we’ve cost our society the chance to expand the social interconnection that happens with recognition.
Those kids may not get the chance to sing in front of the rest of the school and gain the respect that they deserve. That quiet kid in the back of the room might just be perceived as angry and sullen, instead of having the respect as the guy who can do something amazing with a piece of wood.
We weaken our community by not supporting the search for that potential. Those kids frustrated by subjects they have no talent in, who won’t as easily find the joy in something they can do well, and won’t be as likely to go on to be pillars of our community.