Cutbacks Threaten the Arts in Public Schools; Concerns Raised About the Future of Our Culture
"Art is literacy of the heart"
~ Elliot Eisner
As school districts across the nation respond to the challenges of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, children are spending more classroom time on reading and math and as a result some are spending less time on music and art
A report from the National Association of State Boards of Education warns that the arts and other programming "have often been marginalized and are increasingly at risk of being lost as part of the core curriculum.
"Without music life would be a mistake."
~Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
"This is a good time for a wake-up call," says Lori Meyer, author of the report, The Complete Curriculum: Ensuring a Place for the Arts and Foreign Languages in America's Schools. "We're starting to hear a lot of anecdotal evidence that [cuts] are happening. Let's make sure this doesn't get out of hand."
One of the most outspoken critics of the reported trend has been former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, chairman of the National Governor’s Association as well as of the Education Commission of the States.
In a recent letter to the New York Times, Huckabee wrote, “Across the nation, schools are trimming back financing for music and the arts in the name of ‘efficiency’ and ‘core subjects.’ This is beyond short-sighted. It’s stupid…. Numerous studies affirm that a student schooled in music improves his or her SAT and ACT scores in math, foreign language, or creative writing. Creative students are better problem-solvers; that is a trait the business world begs for in its work force.”
"Every good painter paints what he is." -Jackson Pollock (Jack the Dripper)
In an era of shrinking state and federal funding to schools, cutbacks are inevitable. Most often, the programs to suffer first and most seriously are art and music. Think back to your elementary school days and remember the pride and sense of accomplishment you felt bringing home your first finger-painting masterpiece or playing your first rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" for your parents on the piano. Not only are music and the arts fun activities that allow children to express their creative interests but there is also evidence that art and music programs help children excel in other academic pursuits.
Experts agree that involvement in the arts teaches children to be more open and tolerant, promotes individuality, improves overall academic performance, strengthens critical thinking and problem solving skills, improves self-esteem, aids spatial reasoning skills, improves school attendance and helps bridge gaps across socio-economic boundaries. In addition, organized after-school art and music programs provide an alternative to delinquent behavior that can arise during idle after school hours. On the musical side, The National Association for Music Education states that very young children are capable of developing critical thinking skills through musical ideas. They add that children coming from diverse backgrounds bring valuable attributes, such as home languages and cultures, that enrich everyone in the learning environment.
From dance, drama, and
drawing to chorus and clarinet, there is a cornucopia of outlets for creative
expression available to children of all ages. Watch your children and discover
where their natural artistic interests lie. Then present them with opportunities
to develop their natural talents. Nurture the abilities that come
naturally—there is nothing more frustrating for both parent and child than
forcing an activity when even a basic level of interest doesn’t exist.
The next time budget cuts are directed to your local school district’s art and music programs, get involved and speak out to keep programs in place. A permanent place in our schools for art and music programs is a winning situation for all involved.
- From The Gerber Times
F. O. N. T.
(Friends of New Traditions)
New Traditions PTA is an active group of parents and teachers whose goals is to maintain New Tradition's unique culture and strong sense of community. We have monthly PTA board meetings and bimonthly community PTA meetings. We put on events, such as our yearly walk-a-thon and carnival, to raise funds to keep our arts programs strong in this era of cutbacks. We make sure our gardens are cared for and PE happens. Our weekly green letter keeps the community informed of all our events.
Involved parents are what keeps our school a vibrant, engaging, and exciting place for our students to learn.
Here's the good news for art educators: The 2007 National Teacher of the Year, Andrea Peterson, is a music teacher.
This year, beleaguered champions of arts education will find their visions finally -- if gradually -- realized, as the growing conversation about art education's intrinsic value plays out in partnerships between community arts organizations and schools.
Take for instance, Big Thought, an umbrella organization managing multiple partnerships between schools and cultural centers in Dallas, Texas. The organization promotes initiatives such as Dallas Arts Partners, providing access to cultural institutions for students and tools for teachers. "In Dallas, we're seeing an increase in arts and music education," says Gina Thorsen, Big Thought's vice president of research and development.
Though she concedes this trend is atypical for a large, urban school district, she and Big Thought's executive director, Giselle Antoni, travel the country coaching other communities to pool their resources and follow suit. "Arts and cultural organizations have resources that our schools don't have and that can be used to great benefit in the classroom," Thorsen says.
John Abodeely, arts-education manager at the Washington, DC, nonprofit organization Americans for the Arts, has seen a distinct rise in these types of partnerships in recent years. Rather than the old alliances between professional artists and classrooms, which took the form of an occasional artist-in-residence, he says, "the depth of service is much greater." Arts organizations are working side-by-side with teachers and principals to develop arts-integrated curricula that tap into the flexibility and innovation possible in after-school time.
ArtLinks, in Napa, California, is just such a program. Leslie Medine, executive director of its parent organization, On the Move, recounts an after-school mural project ArtLinks made possible. When students at the local Salvador Elementary School discussed the content of their mural (with the theme "School as community"), they discovered that if they were to paint a flag for every nationality represented at the school, there would be twenty-one flags. "That's not necessarily something that would have happened in social studies class," Medine says.
Granted, it's a paradoxical time for arts education, with cutbacks on the one hand and a growing amount of support on the other. But therein lies the hope -- and the challenge, explains Deborah Reeve, executive director of the National Art Education Association. Though times have been tough, she says, "there's a change in the air."
The art teacher stopped at little Susie's desk.
"What are you drawing?" asked the teacher.
"I'm drawing God" answered Susie.
"But Susie, nobody knows what God looks like" responded the teacher.
"They will in a few minutes" answered Susie.