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Where Talent Outweighs Academics

High schools that specialize in the performing arts have long used auditions to determine which students to admit.  This policy makes perfect sense since the schools exist exclusively for students who have a realistic chance of achieving their goal.  But I wonder how much longer it will be before academics are given more weight in the admissions process ("Teacher Says La Guardia High School Picks Tests Over Talent," The New York Times, Apr. 21)?

This would be a grave mistake.  The performing arts are unique in that so much of the ability of students appears to be impervious to instruction.  I'm not saying that creative teachers can't improve the wherewithal that students bring to the classroom.  But I doubt even the best teachers can satisfactorily develop what students fundamentally lack.  For example, if students are tone deaf, the best instruction will do little to overcome that deficit. Look at actors, singers, musicians, dancers et al. Almost all of them exhibited talent at an early age.  Although instruction and practice certainly enhanced their aptitude, without an innate foundation all the instruction and practice in the world would not be enough.

That's why I believe that schools dedicated to the performing arts should continue to focus solely on auditions to determine admissions.  Let's not waste the time of students by offering them false hope.  Telling them that they can be anything they want if they just try hard enough is educational romanticism.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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