1. We’re keeping up with the other subjects.
2. Three dozen people got together agreed on one giant thing.
Let me explain.
1. We have to keep up with our peers. We have to pony up the same infrastructure, research, and political mobilization that our peers in the other core subjects are offering. That’s true if we want arts education to be treated equally. And right now, the Common Core for ELA and math define policy advances (even if we disagree with the content or strategy). But there’s more.
Right now, the new hierarchy of subject has never been clearer: STEM has been named in multiple federal policy initiatives, as has literacy. The other core academic subjects have been lumped together into an “other” category of grantmaking and rank near-last in priority. Should this ever change, it will be because we were just as, if not more organized and on top of our responsibilities to the public education system and to our education leaders. If we want to seriously call into question this misguided hierarchy, we’ll need to do it with flawless precision. We can’t give them any reason to continue to dismiss us as low value in a child’s education. I wouldn’t contend that fitting in is sufficient, but I contend that it is necessary.
2. The process of building buy-in and consensus among dozens of national organizations—with large, national constituencies—is invaluable to anything that the arts education community hopes to accomplish. I’ve never seen a political anything succeed without broad-based, coalition support. However, I’ve seen a host of people and efforts defeated because support had splintered. A state senator once said, “It’s easy to say no to you if you’re coming to me divided.”
What’s next for the Common Core for the Arts is a lot of work—fundraising, project management, writing, and more consensus building. But what they’ve already gained is impressive. Because of this success—because this is our Common Core—the effort deserves our encouragement, our buy-in, and our active investment. I’ll be volunteering myself.
Congratulations to the individuals from the state agencies and other organizations who made that happen—and to the national leaders who are buying in and doing their part. It’s a very powerful thing and could lead to more and bigger victories.