Take 1:

A number of well-articulated reasons to make arts part of every child’s education from the competitive edge for America’s 21st century global workforce to preservation and advocacy of selected art forms to a deeper value and commitment to make cultural literacy part of a child’s education. Although meaningful, none have been powerful enough to catalyze influential leaders to create policy incentives, systemize the key solid education practices and incentives for educators to make arts part of the school week and commit to sustained and adequate funding to do so.

California has a number of foundational elements for this to happen: policy, legislative leadership, acclaimed model programs in Los Angeles, Alameda and Santa Clara, among others, and the recent landmark allocation in 2006 and subsequent funding at approximately $17 per capita. Yet the challenge to get the state’s 6 million plus schoolchildren reading and writing in a state is profound with a more than 30% dropout rate, disinvested public school system (once among the top in the US) and one of the shortest school days in the country, much less to reinstitute the arts! And, that is even with some excellent policy and practices already in place.

As Richard Kessler infers, given the achievement gap, it is unlikely for schoolchildren in underresourced schools to experience arts learning in this setting.

To make arts part of a child’s school week in the country will require a coordinated broad scale effort with educators, artists and business leaders. This would encompass 1) creating or strengthen policy incentives to include arts (for instance 2 hours per week throughout the school year), 2) making the instructional time in the school day/week; 3) providing sustained funds, optimally from the general fund monies; 4) having excellent professional development (pre and in service), curriculum (web-based) and formative and summative assessment for students and teachers and 5) building a multi-constituency advocacy effort with powerful messaging.

Moy Eng

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Take 2:

The interesting thing about the debate on arts education is its conspicuous absence from the decade-long debate on American education.

The education debate has been about enabling every child to learn; about reading and math test scores; about qualified teachers; about charter schools; about after-school programs – all very important things.

Yet the education debate has been silent on the topic of arts education.

Why? There are many reasons.

A generation of educators missed out on their own arts learning experiences when budget cuts in the 1970s and 1980s stretched into an arts education drought.

Thoughtful efforts to place a high priority on reading and math morphed into the mistaken view that other priorities are dispensable.

And the arts have been tagged as another special interest group instead of a part of everyday life.
But when we all step back from the education debate and its budget battles, there is actually widespread agreement on two big reasons arts education should be part of our education debate:
Arts learning – both in and out of school – opens the door to a lifetime of experiences that most young people will miss if they don’t step through that door during their school years.

And their passage through that doorway opens up learning experiences that are deeply valued by nearly everyone – including learning about captivating and engaging creative experiences (from Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer to Alvin Ailey’s Revelations); sharing meaning with and from the many communities to which Americans belong (from the jazz greats to Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial); and empathy with people we have not met (as in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman).

Ample reasons for putting arts education back into our national debate about education.

Edward Pauly

A Debate on Arts Education

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