Monday, July 18, 2011

The arts in education, What happened? What now? and What next?.

Much  of what is said by arts teachers and arts advocates is in defense of the arts and their importance to children, students, and education.  I believe that the time to defend the arts in education is past.
Their value and  record has been proven over and over again, and contemporary studies in neuroeducation and elsewhere prove its effectiveness.  I think the time has come to turn the debate upside down (or more correctly, rightside up).  A football team who only has a defensive strategy will never win any games.  Neither will arts advocates.  I believe it is time to turn advocacy into activism and have a pro-arts, offensive playbook.

What kind of lunacy is it to eliminate the arts in our schools when the countries in the world that lead us in student reading, math and science scores have arts as an integral part of their curriculums? What is the logic of increasing drill and kill 'core' classes to meet this challenge, when those are the very classes that are causing the mind-boggling dropout rate in our schools. How can anyone defend the importance of nationalized testing, when we find out what we always suspected,  that focusing on the tests doesn't lead  to a culture of learning, but rather to a culture of cheating. Atlanta is merely one among many as more and more districts are discovered to have replaced good schools and good teachers with a climate of fear.  Remember last weeks blog where I talked about Secretary of Education Arnne Duncans' prediction that 82% of the schools in America will fail this coming year. When do we quit banging our head against the wall, expecting different results.  Is Sir Ken Robinson is right when he calls for an entirely new paradigm in institutional education?

Anyone who suggests that the arts should be taken out of our schools needs to be voted out, or fired. There simply is no longer any justification for excluding the arts from education.  The value of the arts in education  has been proven again and again, and I've cited multiple examples in this blog, including the RITMMAP study.  Socrates considered 3 of the necessary components of the education of a free and just society to be music, athletics, and play.  The establishment leaders of his time sentenced Socrates to death for his views.  2500 years later, with all of the advances in culture and science and psychology and education and technology and neurology, not that much has changed.  Athletics, the arts, and play in learning have been found to be constituent elements of a first class education (as evidenced by all of the countries who outscore America in those Reading, science and math tests). However, the established educational and political leaders of our day are still trying to sentence education to death by preserving archaic methods, imposing unrealistic standardized testing and taking funds designated for education away from teachers.  As the slogan goes,

Obviously we are also in a era of budget realignments. Philip Nel wrote an excellent commentary a few weeks ago on this aspect of education.  In it, among other things, he calls for the "end of the War on Education" by balancing budgets on the backs of our children.  He calls for fiscally responsible ways of dealing with the budget problems that are sapping funding from all education, putting a stop to our "race to the bottom"  and again making education a priority. I recommend that you give it a look.

Untill next time
Ron Zell

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