Representative Michael Merrifield Pushes Arts Requirements in Schools

February 28 2010, 12:23 PM

Michael Merrifield, a Democratic state representative and retired music teacher from Manitou Springs, wants high-schoolers to receive an education in music or art. So he's pushing a bill that would make taking at least one class in those subjects a graduation requirement, as well as mandate that some form of art be taught at every grade level. Schools these days de-emphasize art in favor of math and science because of testing requirements, but Merrifield believes there is a cultural cost. "We have left the renaissance education in the dust, much to our detriment," he says (via Colorado Springs Gazette). More than half of the state’s high school seniors will graduate this year without having taken an art or music class. The bill is expected to fly through the House Education Committee, which Merrifield chairs, but it's fate beyond that is unclear. Some lawmakers, like Colorado Springs Representative Mark Waller, a Republican, want to leave the issue of arts education to local schools. But not Jeff Hodur, once a failing student at Coronado High School in Colorado Springs, who turned his life around through music. Despite a rocky start in high school, he found music after graduating and eventually earned a teaching degree. Now, he has returned to his old school, where he replaced Merrifield, who recruited him, as the music teacher, writes The Colorado Statesman.