(Suggested listening while reading this blog entry: Alice Cooper’s School’s Out...)
As I prepared to write this blog post, two things prevented me from truly being inspired:
1.) I am currently in pre-production for MCC Theater’s Summer FreshPlay Festival, a one-week event in which 10 teenage playwrights each receive a 25-hour workshop process with professional directors and actors in order to bring their plays to life.
In the past two weeks I’ve hired 10 directors, 12 production assistants, and almost 80 actors; and just as (seemingly) impossible, I’ve somehow managed to schedule a combined 250+ of rehearsals in a five-day period. Needless to say, this blog entry, while a refreshing break from pre-production, has been the last thing on my mind.
2.) I was asked to focus my blog entry on one of the following themes: research, evaluation, advocacy, arts integration, 21st century skills, partnerships, common core, assessment and/or national standards.
What’s fascinating about these two thorns is that in isolation, neither one of them would have fully stumped me from spilling my thoughts on paper. But combined…something just doesn’t feel right: the reason I put up with the stress of producing this festival (yes, it is my job) is because at the end of the day, it is arguably the most fun and rewarding of our annual education programs.
Simultaneously, not once in the past few weeks have I stopped to think about research, evaluation, advocacy, arts integration, 21st century skills, partnerships, common core, assessment and/or national standards.
So before I start feeling guilty about being a terrible Director of Education, let me ask this: why didn’t “fun” make our list of themes?
Perhaps I can blame this lack of inspiration on the fact that MCC Theater’s results-driven, in-school programming is on a summer hiatus; or perhaps I’ve been bitten by the summer fun bug—or is it the fact that I am not currently required to assess our school partnerships by correlating arts instruction to academic progress?
Admittedly, I am partly to blame.
As a member of the Arts Education Council at Americans for the Arts, I helped create the list of themes that should matter, and time-sensitive buzzwords that all arts educators should be thinking about when doing their jobs. Then how could we have overlooked what is possibly the most important of themes, the reason that out field is set aside from most others?
We take fun for granted. We take our biggest secret weapon for granted: FUN. Being creative is fun. Being creative in school is even more fun—AND as if that weren’t enough, it just so happens we can prove it.
But let’s not forget what we (and our grantwriters) are truly using these buzzwords for: to articulate what we seem to have taken for granted—and what I am rediscovering by producing this festival. We are bullied into using “research”, “evaluation”, “advocacy”, “arts integration”, “21st century skills”, “partnerships”, “common core”, “assessment” and “national standards” because “FUN” is not enough.
And as if that weren’t enough, let’s think on this—and if you disagree, please comment or email me—if we were to be 100 percent effective in implementing programs that prioritize these buzzwords, there is no guarantee that any of them will be fun (and we risk not having any participants). Yet, if we create programming that is fun and engaging, all these big-boy phrases will fall into place.
We need to stop using these words as guidelines for program development and more as guidelines for program assessment. We’re putting the cart before the horse by not prioritizing fun, ladies and gentlemen.
So in honor of summertime, I invite you all to stop what you’re doing, sit back, and ask yourselves if you are nurturing fun in your lives and the lives of those around you. If you’re not—try to (it’s easier than we think!). If you are, please let me know!
Happy summer from New York City!