Arts Education, Arts Participation, and the Larger Issues at Stake

Posted by Allen Bell On March - 15 - 2011

Allen Bell

A recent study released by National Endowment for the Arts proves what many arts researchers and advocates have been suggesting for a long time – that the greatest predictor for arts participation is arts education.

The report, “Arts Education in America: What the Decline Means for Participation,” also provides a couple of twists that may or may not have been expected.

The implications are crucial to our understanding of arts participation and arts education.

First, the study shows that both children and adults who have experienced or are engaging in arts classes are much more likely to participate in the arts. Therefore, arts education is an issue that affects all arts organizations, whether those organizations provide arts education opportunities or not.

For arts participation, the cultivation of adult audiences through arts education is just as crucial as providing arts education for children. The nurturing of both populations is necessary to ensure sustained arts participation in the near and distant future.

Second, the researchers demonstrate that while arts education among whites has remained relatively flat, arts education among Hispanic Americans and African Americans has declined significantly.

Cuts in arts education are primarily affecting schools that serve low-income minority students.   Read the rest of this entry »

The Lost Generations of Arts Education

Posted by Ken Busby On March - 15 - 2011

Ken Busby

To understand where we are in terms of arts education today, we need to look back forty years, to 1971.

We’ve now lost two generations of Americans who, prior to the 1970s, would have received quality arts instruction in elementary school.

What that means is that many of today’s business leaders and elected officials don’t realize what they missed out on – and consequently don’t understand the important role the arts play in educating young people.

All this makes our jobs as arts educators and administrators even that much more challenging.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of this equation is that when we make our case for public funding of the arts, the minute we say the word “art,” there is an automatic shut down.

Read the rest of this entry »

The “Well-Rounded” Education

Posted by Kathi R. Levin On March - 15 - 2011
Kathi Levin

Kathi R. Levin

After years of having the arts included as a core subject in federal policy, the arts education community is faced with adapting to a new approach to positioning the arts in the curriculum.

Federal policy has not abandoned the arts as a core subject – at least not yet.

But the arts are now clustered within the concept of having a “well-rounded” education (or the well-rounded curriculum).

For U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a “well-rounded” education or curriculum means that in addition to math, science, and language arts – we need to make sure that students have the arts, foreign language, history and civics, financial literacy, and environmental education.

Recently, Duncan issued guidance to governors in the form of a letter and several white papers to explain how the states can adapt to the economic realities of shrinking budgets without cutting various aspects of education.
Read the rest of this entry »

Speaking Up (or Protesting Quietly) for Arts Education

Posted by Tim Mikulski On March - 14 - 2011
Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

I’m always talking about the importance of arts and arts education advocacy since my background is in the political world, but I know that it can be intimidating to talk to a local board of education member, local legislator, or state representative – let alone a U.S. Senator or Congressperson.

While we try to make the latter easier thanks to a day-long training session before National Arts Advocacy Day and offer other advocacy resources such as our current Testify on Behalf of Arts Education campaign, those methods aren’t universal solutions.

For this reason, I often collect stories about local efforts to fight for arts education (and the arts in general) in case anyone ever wants other advocacy alternatives.

It just so happens that last week, there were three different types of advocacy efforts going on in three areas of the country – Reading, PA; Melrose, MA; and, San Diego, CA.

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It’s the Best of Times, It’s the Worst of Times…

Posted by Marete Wester On March - 14 - 2011
Marete Wester

Marete Wester

When it comes to advocating for arts education, I think we are in the “best of the best”—and the “worst of the worst”—of times.

I’ll start with the “worst of the worst.”

The political environment for education is more hostile and corrosive than ever before.

The economy has not rebounded enough to help stave off what the loss of federal education funds to the states through the 2010 stimulus package will mean to local districts. Loss of teachers and programs are not just happening in the arts—they will happen system and subject-wide.

One recent example is the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to provide funds for FY 2011 (current year) for two weeks to avoid a federal government shutdown. The two weeks is up on Friday.

The CR actually makes a $4 billion cut in domestic spending, including a number of federal education programs—such as Teach for America.  Not surprisingly, among these programs designated for cuts is the $40 million Arts in Education program for which we advocate every year.
Read the rest of this entry »

Students Will Be Able To…Advocate

Posted by Rachel Evans On March - 14 - 2011

Rachel Evans

I wish I had counted how many people said to me over the last seven years that I need to teach the pre-service theatre educators in my classes to be arts education advocates.

On one hand, it’s exciting to realize that the field has progressed to the point that it recognizes advocacy as a necessary part of the student-teaching experience. On the other hand, crafting an identity as an advocate and adopting an advocacy agenda–that’s quite a bit of pressure on the young educator.

Or so I thought.

I chose to start small. The students in Kean University’s Topics in Theatre Education class began by reviewing advocacy sections on the websites of various service organizations.

We looked at the materials I saved from Arts Advocacy Day 2010 and we watched the video ad for 2011’s gathering.

I spoke as passionately as I could about the lasting effects last year’s AAD experience had on me: building my convictions and motivating me to find my own voice as an advocate for the arts.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advocacy: The Power of a Personal Story

Posted by Rob Schultz On March - 14 - 2011

Rob Schultz

One of the tried-and-true methods for advocating government funding for arts education is to tell a story about the positive impact of the arts on an individual. If the story can convey transformative change in that individual, the more powerful the message will be.

Well, here is one story.

It may not be Hollywood blockbuster material, but perhaps some can relate.

Several decades ago, an individual was growing up in a 1960’s suburban, middle-class American neighborhood and living a relatively mundane and somewhat sheltered life.

Afflicted with what would today be diagnosed as ADHD, this individual had difficulty in school, especially high school.
Read the rest of this entry »

The Space Between Stories and Numbers

Posted by Clayton Lord On March - 14 - 2011

Clayton Lord

Last week, arts advocate Arlene Goldbard spoke at the Association of Performing Arts Service Organizations conference in Austin. Goldbard believes we need to start using a more empowered (and less-numbers-based) vocabulary for arguing for the value of the arts. At one point she said this:

“The best argument for arts education is that children today practice endlessly interacting with machines, developing a certain type of cognitive facility. But without the opportunity that arts education affords to face human stories in all their diversity and particularity, to experience emotional responses in a safe space and rehearse one’s reactions, to feel compassion and imagine alternative worlds, their emotional and moral development will never keep pace.”

Later, she noted:

“Students today are preparing for jobs and social roles that have not even been imagined yet. They cannot be trained in the narrow sense for jobs that do not yet exist.”

Goldbard argued that arts education, with its ability to instill social skills, empathy, intellectual development, critical thinking, etc., would allow students today more flexibility as those as-yet-unknown jobs and roles revealed themselves over time.
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Educating Kids in the “Race to Somewhere”

Posted by Merryl Goldberg On March - 14 - 2011

Merryl Goldberg

The film Race to Nowhere is a provocative entrance into a conversation about educational reform and, in my role as Chair and Professor of the Visual and Performing Arts as California State University San Marcos, I’ve been invited by local PTAs to comment on the film and begin a dialogue with teachers, parents, and school administrators.

I’ve created a top ten list in response to the film and to what I see as core needs in schools. In embarking on a path to student success, I suggest reinvigorating curriculum development and policy with the following:

1.    Wonder – Wonder sets the stage for learning. Children (indeed all of us) have an innate ability to imagine and create – all of which starts with wonder. Scientists, mathematicians, and artists are wonderful role models for the act of wondering and the arts cultivate wonder – engaging us, both as creators and as audience members.
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Welcome to the Blog Salon

Posted by Victoria Plettner-Saunders On March - 14 - 2011

Victoria Plettner-Saunders

As Chair of the Arts Education Council of Americans for the Arts, I’d like to welcome you to the first Arts Education Blog Salon of 2011.

There are always so many things to learn from our colleagues as we share blog posts and commentary on a particular theme for one full week.

I hope you have time to return to the Salon several times throughout the week (and again after it ends on Friday) and post your own thoughts or questions as they arise.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to share with you a little bit about the Arts Education Council and what our agenda for 2011 looks like.

This past January, the council met to plan its annual agenda. With a renewed focus on supporting members at the local level, we developed a rather ambitious set of activities for the year around five main themes (some of which were the result of the council’s Trends Report that has been developed over the past two years).   Read the rest of this entry »

The Scientific Method Should Be Trusted

Posted by Kristy Callaway On March - 8 - 2011

Kristy Callaway

My southern heritage speaks, “I’m not one to talk, but…” then proceeds to the insult and ends with “…bless their heart.”

What I know for sure is that the scientific method should be trusted and I like micro advocacy. Our ancestors could mark on cave walls, create flutes from bones, and push their humanity forward through oral and physical traditions, mostly improving their lot along the way. We have been governed by scientific methodology since we hungrily poked sticks in anthills a million years ago.

Today, the wiggling things are us.

What is at stake?

Our legacy and future humanity!

In a recent op-ed piece to The Washington Post, Bill Gates detailed research findings for student achievement. The single most decisive factor is excellent teaching. And learning can only happen in the third space between teacher and student. Read the rest of this entry »

Riding the Arts Education Roller Coaster

Posted by Marete Wester On March - 4 - 2011
Marete Wester

Marete Wester

I don’t have a Twitter account. I’m not morally opposed to it, or taking an anti-technology political stance—I’m merely a social media “slow adapter.” Since it’s one of those things I know it will take me a while to learn, it’s not high on my priority “to do’s”—at least for now.

Which is why I’m always amazed when a colleague emailed me that I’ve been quoted on Twitter, as I was recently speaking on a panel at the Face to Face conference hosted by the Arts in Education Roundtable in New York City (Feb 22 & 23).

The Face to Face conference had several hundred attendees, with a significant number of first-timers. While many of the panels were thoughtfully focused on building skills and improving practice in delivering solid learning in the arts, others were targeted towards advocacy and making the case.

The comment that made the tweet was something I said as a member of the Arts Education Advocacy panel moderated by Doug Israel of the Center for Arts Education, featuring NYC Councilman Robert Jackson and NYS State Alliance for Arts Education Executive Director Jeremy Johannesen.

In response to a question about how we would describe the current environment for arts education from our respective vantage points at the local, state, and national level, I apparently said something tweet-able. Read the rest of this entry »

Crystal Ball Time – What Will Rahm Emanuel Mean for the Arts in Chicago?

Posted by Scarlett Swerdlow On March - 1 - 2011

Less than a week ago, something happened in Chicago that hadn’t happened in more than 20 years — we had a race for mayor … without Richard M. Daley on the ballot!

I know many cities and towns elect a new mayor — or at least seriously consider it — every four years. But the last time we voted for a mayor who wasn’t “Da Mare” was in the 1980s.

Whether the election was actually “competitive,” well, that’s debatable. With Rahm Emanuel, one of six candidates, capturing 55 percent of the vote, the Chicago Sun-Times called the election a “rahmp!” (Get it?!) Emanuel needed “50 percent plus one” to avoid a run-off with the next highest vote-getter.

What will the election of Rahm Emanuel mean for the arts and arts education in Chicago? Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Time to Testify on Behalf of Arts Education

Posted by Tim Mikulski On February - 25 - 2011
Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

It’s hard to believe, but six months has passed since we celebrated the first National Arts in Education Week (as declared by Congress). As we all know, legislative bodies don’t often operate on a timeline that is convenient for the rest of us (i.e. the fact that our federal government runs out of money in just a few days).

Because of that, a group of us on Twitter that gets together for arts education chats on Thursdays (search #artsed) came up with the idea of using that week to start projects that could be celebrated later in the year, or more specifically, a half a year later during what is known as Arts Education/Youth Arts/Music in Our Schools Month – March.

During that time, we have also been collecting signatures of advocates who promised to testify on behalf of arts education at their local school board meetings throughout the month of March. We just asked for regular people who support arts education in their local schools to show up to the meeting and say something positive about the arts during the public comment section, or even better, get on the agenda ahead of time. Read the rest of this entry »

Tearing Down Higher Education Towers

Posted by Ron Jones On February - 22 - 2011

Ron Jones

The phrase, “Town and Gown,” is a shorthand way to saying there is a tension or disconnect between institutions of higher learning and the communities in which they reside. Some of us know this to be extreme; others only experience this disconnect in minor ways. It is real.

We all know that and it’s real for good reason since the purposes and aspirations of community and institution are rarely compatible and aligned. For those of us in the arts, this disconnect has and continues to be even more amplified with communities sometimes, perhaps often, seeing university arts programs, arts conservatories, and art schools as isolated towers that stand aloof to and indifferent to the needs and sensibilities of the very community in which they reside.

Those days, in my opinion, must come to an end if the arts are to survive and realize a healthier existence in the tomorrows to come!
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Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.