Student Calls for Encouragement of the Arts


In an era when science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields are becoming increasingly dominant, Kate Lee ‘19 has set her heart on becoming a writer.

Every day, walking down the hallways at Westwood, students glance at walls that are lined with posters advocating the sciences. The school goes through great lengths to promote events such as the Hour of Code, but in comparison to all Westwood’s encouragement for students to consider careers in STEM, the want for students to pursue their dreams in the fields of writing and of the arts seems dim. This attitude, whether expressed unconsciously or not, has an impact on the students who have a passion for the humanities.

“Engineering and science and math and technology is so important to our society because they really do everything to improve how we live,” Lee said, “but the arts are also equally important because they’re why we live.”

Lee has been a writer ever since second grade, when she discovered that not only reading brought her joy but also writing as well. Since then, she has placed first at the Texas Book Festival twice, once in 2014 with her short story “Bittersweet Stars” and again in 2015 with “Sylvia”, another short story. Lee also received a gold key from the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards for her short story “Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5” and won the 2014 Letters About Literature contest. In addition to entering her writing in competitions, Lee also keeps a book blog, Read and Dream.

“When I write, my characters reflect parts of me that I didn’t really know existed,” Lee said. “It’s a way of expressing your thoughts but also discovering new things about yourself. I think writing makes a person more observant and aware of the miniscule moments and emotions that actually have so much magnitude.”

Writing enabled Lee both to express her ideas to others and to better understand her own thoughts. As a result, literature became more than just a hobby for Lee, but a vital part of her character and a potential career choice.

“Passion is a very simple emotion,” Lee said. “It just takes you over and engulfs you, until being separated from your passion becomes unthinkable. It’s a feeling that once you hold you realize, ‘I don’t need anything else anymore.’”

However, after discussing her aspirations of becoming a writer to others, Lee was met with skepticism and disapproval.

“I have been told that [aiming to be a writer] is dangerous or that I will not be able to support myself and that it is a waste of talent,” Lee said. “It’s frustrating as someone who just wants to pursue what makes them happy to see their goals being devalued.”

As Lee grew, her writing continued to guide her as her views of the world began to change. Throughout the transition from middle school to high school, despite initial discouragement, her love for writing remained and she continued to believe in her dream of pursuing it as a career.

“What really hit me most is when I came to Westwood and they said that you had to choose an academy, and there is a STEM academy, a Health Science academy separately from that, Business, Performing Arts, and Public Service,” Lee said.

English was not included in this list of academies. Although Journalism fell into the Academy of Business and Industry, core classes or classes focusing on creative writing did not. During course selection, options to focus on specific areas of Language Arts, such as American literature, poetry, or playwriting were not available.

“[English] is like the little separate diamond on the end of the paper,” Lee said. “Symbolically, the fact that nobody has said anything about that means that there is not enough support from the school.”

Throughout her years at school, not only at Westwood but also at Canyon Vista Middle School and Laurel Mountain Elementary School, Lee has noticed that support for Language Arts programs was unequal in comparison to the encouragement of other subjects.

“We have events such as Hour of Code, which is a great national event,” Lee said. “But right now it’s National Poetry Month. November is National Novel Writing Month. But these others celebrations aren’t necessarily recognized by the school.”

Westwood showed huge enthusiasm for Hour of Code, launching a schoolwide effort to pull students out of classes to learn coding skills and teach them to other students in elementary or middle schools. The event was also well advertised, both through posters and by word of mouth. As a result of Westwood’s commendable effort, the Hour of Code was a successful event that was both enjoyable and educational for students. If Westwood promoted national events focused on writing in a similar fashion, it could make a huge impact encouraging language arts.

“I think that not only just writers but a lot of artists or people who want to explore the humanities may feel the same way as I do,” Lee said. “To anyone out there who feels like they don’t really get heard or appreciated: There are so many opportunities and people willing to support you if you go and look for them yourself.”

Here at Westwood, there are already many opportunities for students interested in the arts and humanities. Teachers often talk about their career paths in writing, history, or art, and the library organizes writing events and encourages students to attend author visits. By encouraging students to participate in writing events and contests, reworking the academy system to be more inclusive, and broadening the range of language arts classes, Westwood could improve its English curriculum and work towards creating equal opportunities for all of its students.

“I want to commend the library here and at Canyon Vista and all of the English teachers and history teachers I have had because their passion for their area of teaching has gifted me the confidence to never doubt my career choice,” Lee said. “Being a musician, an artist, an actor, an author; these are valid career choices. They are not obscure childish dreams, they are goals that, like anything else, require heaps of effort but are also incredibly rewarding.”