You've probably heard this a bazillion times from teachers, websites, and anyone who hears you complain about something you wish could change in your community: "Why don't you write a letter?" So now we are saying it too: WRITE A LETTER! Officials will listen, especially if they are local leaders.
A letter gives you a chance to tell any politician or elected official what you think is important. The truth is that 90% of the time, adults make all the decisions in your life. Break that cycle and tell them what you're thinking.
Who Gets It?
Who you choose is up to you but local officials are usually best. Click your way to your town's website to find the names and addresses of town and school officials.
- GlobalComputing.com is a great source for finding your state’s official website.
- Canadians can try this site: Pal.gc.ca.
- Senate.gov provides a list of all senators along with their D.C. addresses.
- House.gov will give your representatives contact information.
Review these Pen Points.
- A short direct letter is powerful. Officials don't have a lot of time. If it's longer, they may not get the message.
- If you decide to hand write your letter, make sure your writing is neat and legible. If other people can’t read your writing, then they won’t read your letter.
- Be polite; don’t be too aggressive.
- Request a response.
- Include your name, address, and ways to contact you (phone number, email) on the letter AND the envelope.
- Be really specific with your concerns and requests. Elected officials deal with a lot of problems every day. If they see that you have a particular problem or issue in mind, then it'll be easier for them to take action to resolve it. If you’re writing about a specific bill, give them the bill number (and definitely tell them how you want them to vote!).
- Keep in mind that facts carry a lot more weight than reasons such as "because it’s bad" or "because I like it." Include some compelling facts about music education.
- Thank them for their time and acting on your behalf.
- Address them in a respectable way!
Decide if you want to type or write the letter by hand. Don't underestimate the power of a handwritten letter; it will stand out from the piles of faxes and emails officials receive daily.
Send a copy to your school board president. Your school secretary has this information.
Address It Correctly
If writing to members of the U.S. House of Representatives:
The Honorable (full name)
United States House of Representatives (get street address here https://forms.house.gov/wyr/welcome.shtml)
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative (last name):
If writing to members of the U.S. Senate:
The Honorable (full name)
United States Senate address (get street address here http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm)
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator (last name):
Check Out This Sample Letter
Passion is contagious. Follow the basic structure rules of a formal letter, but make the letter yours. The more genuinely and passionately you write, the more effective your message will be.
The Honorable [Insert Senator Name]
[Insert Senator Address]
RE: Music Education
Dear Senator [Insert Senator Last Name],
I am a resident of ___, and I am writing as a concerned citizen who is concerned about my generation's education.
I understand firsthand the importance of a quality education for all of America's children. A quality education is the primary means of preparing young people to succeed in the business world and in life as well. I also know firsthand that the inclusion of music in my school curriculum has been an integral part of my educational experience.
Countless studies have proven the connection between music education and success in school and life.
- Recent research has also revealed that music education dramatically enhances a child's ability to solve complex math and science problems.
- Students who participate in music programs score significantly higher on standardized tests while at the same time developing self-discipline, communication, and teamwork skills.
- They are also less likely to be involved in gangs, drugs, or alcohol abuse and have better attendance in school.
While you may have heard of these study findings, I would like to put a face to the numbers. I am a young person who has benefited from music education programs that have made my years in school more fulfilling and joyful. I have found that music has helped me in all of my subjects, and I am more motivated and secure in myself. I've also witnessed a change for the better in friends who have become involved in music. They are more committed to their schoolwork and future plans.
I know what music education has done for me and my friends, and am certain that children who don't receive music education are at a disadvantage. It is for this reason I hope you incorporate initiatives that encourage and strengthen school music programs as you you consider legislation to improve our education system. Specifically, I ask that you:
- Reinforce the concept of arts education as a core academic subject and an important component of every child's education; and
- Direct more funding to schools for arts education programs.
Thank you for considering this matter. I hope you can count on your support
(your handwritten signature)
CC: [insert name], School Board President