Thursday, August 18, 2011

Arts Education Blog Forum - Final Wrap Up

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on.........................."

Final Thoughts:

I would like to thank all of the responders who participated in this forum over the past month. Julie Fry and I are both grateful for their time and for their insights, thoughts and keen observations.  This was, I think, an outstanding discussion.

I am especially indebted to Julie for all of her help and support in making this Forum possible. I have no illusions that I would have been able to assemble such a stellar list of responders or been able to so intelligently frame the issues and questions on my own. To the extent this was of value to the field and a success, the credit belongs largely to her. She is the consummate professional and few in the field are more conversant with all the myriad issues and challenges in the arts education arena. 

Personally, I am left with as many questions as answers. Reading all of the comments by all of the participants over the past month, my overall feeling is that arts education has so many levels of complexity that addressing the main goal of getting arts education in every school is Herculean to say the least. Our whole approach seems to be vivisected, with each facet of the challenge compartmentalized and isolated, with too little overall, comprehensive organization to our thinking and actions. I would hope that we could address that challenge by moving forward with the development of one national policy on arts education - one that could be adapted to local circumstances but which would promote consensus messages. The PCAH Report and the work of AFTA are good places to start, but only a start.

Otherwise two major concerns stand out to me:

1. We have to be more practical and realistic in our approaches, and dial down too much lofty rhetoric about some ideal that we are chasing and take into account two realities and make them a part of every discussion on every aspect of arts education:

First, the politics of things - from local government and school districts to that of the wider education reform debate (and acknowledge that politics plays a part in everything from how, when and where we advocate to research, to arts integration and beyond); and

Second, the actual costs of doing any of the things we talk about. We simply must include identifcation of funding streams for any and all proposals at every level. Otherwise we are just whistling in the wind.

2. Because of the dollar costs involved, I think the equity issue of access to arts education will unquestionably continue to result in some (wealthier) districts providing at least some arts education, and many more, little or nothing at all. And so the danger is not just that many kids in whole generations do not (will not) get arts, but that others do, and if we are right that arts education is essential for a well rounded, quality education and preparation to be competitive in this world, then the net result is an increasingly have and have not world and the gap between those will widen further.

Julie:  To Barry’s comment in #1 above, I would also add public will: in order to move the politics and secure the funding, the public needs to demand that the arts are part of every child’s school experience – for the learning, problem-solving, team-building opportunities it provides children, for the importance of creativity and innovation to our economy, for a civil society.

I agree that the field has been fragmented, and is likely to remain that way – one size does not fit all in the mosaic of learning in and through the arts. While a national policy may help provide some guidance and cohesion, I think the most important work is happening locally and regionally. Overall, this is an education issue, and should be part of the national debate that is taking place on education reform.

I'd like to add my sincere thanks to Barry for his probing questions about the arts education field, his grand enthusiasm for this endeavor, and his generosity in devoting a month's worth of blog space to the discussion! This is much appreciated by the field, Barry.

Again thank you everyone!

Don't Quit