This probably isn’t going to be a popular statement. But let’s throw it out there and see what folks think.
I believe that if arts education professionals provided amazing arts education to students, we wouldn’t have to fight for time in the school day, money in the school budget, or support among our neighbors. From firsthand experience, I know creating art and can be transformational. I believe that if the arts teaching workforce—whether teaching artists, certified arts teachers, or arts integrationists—could regularly and reliably facilitate the best arts education experiences for their students, there would be no question as to the absolute need to provide arts education.
I wouldn’t suggest this is easy. But I think it’s still true. And yes, the implication is that our work—collectively, across the country—isn’t good enough.
To be fair, I can see a couple obstacles to it.
1. Our governance agents diminish the value of spiritual or personal value when there’s a tax dollar involved.
2. Scaling up transformational, personally-demanding education would be hard.
But am I really off base? If we did this, would our existing obstacles still be obstacles? Would we still fight the “read, write, and you’ll be fine” assumption that plagues schools—especially high-poverty schools? Would we still run into assumptions that such experiences can’t compete with the need to clothe and house people?
So many of our authorizing agents still assume that it doesn’t matter what kind of life you live. It only matters that you survive it without being a criminal or a derelict. It’s not about quality—not for the masses. It’s about quantity. It’s not about the depth of the self, it’s about income. It’s not about you or others; it’s about the GDP.
What arts education offers its students has not been quantified by economists in any real way. But what it offers is still why I do the job I do. I think if we took to our classrooms the same passionate, obstinate, unmitigated drive to transform—to fearlessly explore ourselves and our relationships, to expose unknown but harmful elements of our society—then we would not only earn our schools minutes and dollars; we would transform our schools. We would transform our world. We wouldn’t just have artists among us. We’d turn the whole place into a giant art studio.
I think that might be the most fantastic accomplishment there ever was.