"And the beat goes on........................."
Week 3 Follow-Up Questions:
1. What would a national policy on arts education look like? What provisions would it ideally contain? How do we insure (as Richard suggests) it have “teeth” to it?
2. How we can represent all of the myriad voices, needs, and agendas out there on a national level with standards and a policy agenda? Is it possible for the field to begin by putting forward a few key tenets that we can more easily share as part of a policy message?
In pondering Barry’s reflection questions, I immediately think of the Arts Education Working Group. Here is how this coalition is responding to Barry’s questions:
The Arts Education Working Group, a coalition of national arts and arts education advocacy organizations, has written a set of legislative recommendations for thereauthorizations of NCLB. The coalition continues to work with House and Senate committee staff to incorporate the following recommendations into the reauthorization drafts:
- Retain the Arts in the Definition of Core Academic Subjects of Learning
- Require Annual State Reports on Student Access to Core Academic Subjects
- Improve National Data Collection and Research in Arts Education
- Reauthorize the Arts in Education Programs of the U.S. Department of Education
If you would like to add your organization's name to those already supporting this unified statement, please email Kristen Engebretsen, Arts Education Program Coordinator at Americans for the Arts, firstname.lastname@example.org. To see the organizations who have currently signed on in support of the unified statement, please visit:
3. As Richard asked: Who will lead the effort to try to develop a consensus national arts education policy that focuses on the child / student; how might that best be pursued; and how will such an effort be funded? And we might add: When will that happen?
4. How do we recognize the local nature of arts education, but, as Janet advised, fly at the 30,000 foot level and insinuate ourselves deeply into the wider education matrix and debates?
5. As Bob noted, Americans for the Arts has built the framework for a national arts education lobbying effort. But as Narric noted, the federal support is a small percentage of overall funding. How do we grow that infrastructure, integrate it vertically and apply it locally (as Narric suggests) in the face of continuing threats to arts advocacy efforts as typified by the plight of the New York State Alliance for Arts Education, which as reported Monday in the New York Times, is struggling to stay afloat? “The arts education alliance’s some 100 members are struggling to pay dues of $35 to $250. ‘Paying membership dues to support advocacy or making payroll — that decision doesn’t even get considered’,” said Jeremy Johannesen, its executive director.
6. In that same New York Times article, Robert W. Wilson, a former New York City Opera chairman who now serves on the Metropolitan Opera board, is quoted as saying: “I’ve never supported any of these groups (advocacy), and I’ve never seen any reason to do so. I would rather support the arts organizations themselves.” How do we deal with this attitude of dismissing advocacy efforts within our own ranks, and how prevalent and big a problem might that be for us?
I do think that quote by Robert Wilson underscores a problem to be addressed. It is short sighted of donors to only support organizations providing direct service or presentation/production. If a funder is interested in arts education, it is critical that they recognize the need for a variety of support/organizations. This is true for institutional and individual funders. Perhaps this is an area that Americans for the Arts might want to take on, in terms of a national campaign to educate donors and funders as to the importance of advocacy?
I really think this is an area that institutional funders need to support, and in turn, their support could lead to more broad-based support of advocacy/policy. Really, isn't it obvious, with all the challenges, that we need real advocacy and policy work?
Furthering advocacy in the face of this adversity takes educating of funders, and I would again highlight the article mentioned in my blog, a 2008 report from The Atlantic Philanthropies that states:
"…funding advocacy too often is the philanthropic road not taken, yet it is a road most likely to lead to the kind of lasting change that philanthropy has long sought through other kinds of grants.”
Funders in the larger educational field have started to fund advocacy (see the article Behind Grass Roots School Advocacy, Bill Gates.) If we want the same thing in arts education, we need to begin educating our own funders about the importance of advocacy work.
Unfortunately, it sounds like the gentleman quoted in the New York Times article is not informed about this possibility of philanthropy creating systemic change. This demonstrates that much of advocacy work is simply educating decision-makers and communicating our message well.
If we want to keep programs around like the ones at the Metropolitan Opera, someone has to do the work of creating policy to protect them because (and I quote my colleague Richard Kessler here) “Programs do not equal policy.” And someone also has to do the work of advocating for funds that will ensure the program’s existence.
I’ll leave you with the lyrics of a Kenny Rogers song:
How hard could it be
Somebody should do something about it
Maybe that someone is me”
8. How do we shift emphasis and gears to embrace Cyrus’ observation (echoed by Janet) that: “arts education policy is in fact educational policy, and those of us who are committed to arts education must be capable of working effectively in the educational policy space, to become part of the struggle for educational equity more generally, and to assure that arts learning is at the core of how the education field envisions 21st century schooling.?” Who needs to be at the table with us, and how do we encourage them to join the effort, or conversely, how do we get invitations to sit at their tables?
Next week: Category: Research