I don't have a good track record of running from difficult situations however, and I guess I'm doomed to continue in that tradition. In recent months, I've been trying to look at - not what happened to me, but to what is happening in the arts communities I see around me with an eye toward the hope that there are better days ahead with regards to arts education. I do see good things happening in the arts communities that have survived. Good people continue to do amazing things with some of the remaining in-school programs. These continue to be supported (or replaced) by after-school programs, and programs provided by community programs and arts outreach organizations. Fundraisers and donations from good-hearted parents and community groups provide financial resources to the degree that they can.
I see people calling for educational reform, and even, wonder of wonders, a partial suspension of the No Child Left Behind Act. But these seem to me somehow to be delaying tactics in what otherwise is a predominately losing battle. I have provided links in the last few weeks to posts that have emphasized the importance of the arts. I've thought the posts were excellent, or I wouldn't have provided them. But I am frequently distressed after reading them. Not by the posts, but by the readers comments that accompany them. They are few to be sure, (which is to be expected, after all, they are posts about the arts), but they often reveal antipathy toward the arts that I'm afraid is becoming the populist view.
I am not at all alone in my opinion. This year, the National Endowments of the Arts released a report entitled: Arts Education in America: What the declines mean for Arts Participation. I encourage you to read it. It is enlightening, important to anyone involved in arts education, and unfortunately sobering. Here are a few of what I thought were salient points.
There is much more included in the report, but rather than list what I think are the important points, I encourage you to get the report, and read it for yourselves. My take-away point from all of this is that we are living in a time of great change - in all areas of our society. Providing excellent arts programs is not enough - I've proven that. We need to work smarter - not harder to make communities aware of the value and the importance of the arts in education and what they are losing if they let them go. With regards to arts education in particular, those who are involved and concerned about it, need to expand their circles of activity well beyond the world of the arts. Politics, education, business, policymaking, media outlets, school funding programs - (federal, state, and local) and much more need to be the target of interest and involvement. It is not by preaching to the choir that we are going to turn the tide of 'devaluing of the arts' It is by getting out into public places and public awarenesses that we can make a difference. "Glee" has got it right. Highlighting the importance of the arts to new audiences in new ways is the paradigm that we all need to embrace. Call it 'Arts Activism', it is what we need to prevent arts education from becoming a privilege, and not a right? (see ...young Minds need art). Unless those who are involved in the arts get involved in these other areas (presumably which are outside of their comfort zone) - we may win sporadic 'delaying actions' but we will continue to lose the 'Arts wars'
As a program note, I've invited comments from a member of the California State Assembly on the arts in education that I hope to include in an upcoming blog.
Until Next time