OPINION: LaGuardia Arts High School can learn from Columbia

By Blaise Mesa, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Math is important, so is science, history and any other STEM course you can think of. But some people just aren’t great at it, and that shouldn’t matter when applying to an arts school.

Students at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York City staged a sit-in May 31 to protest academic and curriculum standards, as well as cuts to resources. LaGuardia —otherwise known as the “Fame” school for its inspiration of both the 1980 movie “Fame,” and its remake—is a public arts high school rejecting qualified arts students.

According to an NBC New York report, students with perfect audition scores were not being admitted, potentially due to earning a “C” in middle school math. A “C” is not a failing mark.

“Acceptance to LaGuardia Arts is based on a competitive audition and review of student records to ensure success in both the demanding studio work and the challenging academic programs,” according to the school’s admission page website. 

Schools do have the right to be selective, but would LaGuardia Arts have rejected students with a perfect grade point average? Probably not. It seems excessive that LaGaurdia would reject skilled applicants for something as trivial as middle school grades. Institutions would never reject an honor-roll medical student because they couldn’t paint.

LaGuardia High School should learn from Columbia.

When applying to Columbia there was focus on my academic success, but there was also a focus on skills pertaining to my major. The transfer application even asked for clips from radio broadcasts I had completed.

Imposing academic requirements that force students to earn a “B” or higher, which is graded as above average, is not what arts schools should do. Arts students may not be the next great mathematicians, but they are probably not trying to be anyway.

Students at LaGuardia also said homework was piling up, getting in the way of their creative pursuits. This has never been a problem for me at Columbia.

Columbia’s liberal arts and sciences core classes do help broaden my horizons through education, with classes in coding or marine biology for example, but they never become so daunting that they prevent me from pursuing journalism or radio, my true passions.

I have learned about the ocean, medieval mythology and human development while having plenty of time to focus on my writing and broadcasting. A perfect balance can be found.

“Columbia has given me a lot of opportunity with my art,” said sophomore audio design and production major Jesus Negron.

Negron said he has time to focus on his music, and even when he does other schoolwork it helps him with his music. 

Arts at Columbia have support from everyone at the school, from the administration all the way down to new building projects.

“I believe with every cell in my body that creatives are one of the most overlooked, under-appreciated populations in the world,” said President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim in a May 29 article. “To me, a group of people who inherently have the possibility of bringing needed transformative change are not seen that way. We still tend to be seen as extras—the decorators, the entertainers, the weirdos who are nice to have around.”

Focusing on academics is important for arts students, and no class should be skipped. But to pass over qualified students due to grades, and to fill their days with excessive homework, is a betrayal of what an arts school is meant to be.

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