December 4, 2008 Archives

Moy, it is good to hear that Eric, you and your foundation are interested in carrying this conversation forward. I gather from other posts that others would be interested, too. The question is how best to do this. And of course, what is the this. Many agendas have surfaced over the last four days; we dealt fairly quickly with the Rand agenda at first, and then moved on to more general issues about arts education survival and the need for change in the status quo.

I think almost everyone blogging want to see arts education survive and thrive. The question is what are the best strategies to accomplish that end, and on that there is not much agreement among the current group.

I would hope that tomorrow folks might weigh in on what they think are good next steps. It would be a shame to see the momentum of this exchange die, without a trace.


December 4, 2008 7:42 PM | | Comments (2) |
Moy, if you had your druthers, what do you think such a gathering might look like if it were to be effective? What do others think?  Richard has mentioned to me some models of this kind of process that he has experienced and knows. 

Here are my two cents about a few of the key design features...I think it would take a week (otherwise we skim where we usually skim, and miss the greater truth underneath the seeming polarities and stint the luxury of time mucking about in the messy uncertain places--our lives have developed a persistent case of cut-to-the-chase). I think it should be a smallish group, no more than 15-20. I think it should be given a very focused question or assignment. I think the groups represented need to be a broad array (many, if not all, have been mentioned in this blog), and not all organization heads--maybe few organization heads. I think there needs to be a lot of visibility for the event before it begins to capture the imagination and credence of the field. I think there needs to be a really skilled facilitator. What else would make it effective, credible and wise?
December 4, 2008 5:27 PM | | Comments (1) |

I've read with interest the wide ranging conversation which reminds me the complex nature of learning, arts engagement and affecting change in the public education system. Rather than sum up poorly the eloquent words of others, I'll pick up on the Eric's "throwdown" suggestion.  Is there interest in working together to catalyze a broadbased effort encompassing a grasstops to grassroots approach fueled by the intelligence, experience and passionate leadership of educators, students, parents, policymakers, artists, and business leaders?  We have the beginnings of this movement in California with the recent efforts of California Alliance for Arts Education, CA County Superintendents Education Association, Stanford Research Institute, CA PTA and LA County's Arts for All, among others. 

Who needs and wants to be at this meeting?  What shall we aim to accomplish for the nation's schoolchildren? At best, there should be a singular vision to work towards... Of course, we can continue to work as the pragmatic Jane Remer writes bringing one teacher, one school, one district at a time.  We at Hewlett are game.  And you???

December 4, 2008 4:29 PM | | Comments (1) |

In reading this discussion, I get the feeling that there is a lively back-and-forth going on among the arts-education professionals about terminology, ideals, goals, tactics, prior reports and mostly local experiments, and that thre rest of us lob in our little potshots now and then and are pretty much ignored. This may well mean that we (I) aren't taking the discussion seriously enough. Or it could mean that the professionals are living in a closed-off world, talking largely to one another.

Anyhow, I got an interesting comment on my "Glazing Over" post from He makes a number of points, most of which highlight tangible results in various local initiatives and his feeling that reaching kids when they're young is the best way to draw them in for the rest of their lives.

I appreciate the tangiblity, and he may well be right about youth. But what I really liked was his last comment: "To torture an already tortured phrase... let not the good become the victim of the pursuit of the perfect." Right on, Bob.  

December 4, 2008 2:17 PM | | Comments (3) |

I have just written three postings that I didn't post. I spared you--you should thank me. As I got to the end of each, they felt passionate and true, but so partial, so unsatisfyingly incomplete, even in the face of our four days of views from 16 amiable colleagues. Each of the issues we have raised is BIG. Sam, I want to talk with you about those lifelong professional instructors; Midori, I want to talk with you about the place of passion and nurturing it in artist training; and Jane, let's talk practical matters; and, and, and. This is a familiar feeling from conferences and meetings, of starting something that piddles away. The feeling is evergreen, but doesn't feel like its growing. Do we have to be bonsai evergreens?

What about this? There is an organization (can't remember its name) that convenes a modest number of representative individuals, like 20 or so. They have them for a week in a retreat setting. They lay out all the information they can about a serious issue, like abortion, or health insurance, and facilitate their coming to conclusions, They have a full week of time to do this, to think through the issues, as we rarely seem to be able to do in groups that come from different arenas (silos?) of our field. And given this wealth of time, they think through and then make recommendations to the field. Is this something we should strive to do? Imagine if we 16 (to suggestion a currently handy, somewhat random group) had a full week together to see what we truly agree on. There's a thought experiment for you. Is this something we should try to foster?

December 4, 2008 12:56 PM | | Comments (1) |

I've had a side conversation with Nick Rabkin, author of Putting the Arts in the Picture: Reframing Education in the 21st Century. He takes me to task for drawing too bright a line between instrumental and intrinsic benefits of the arts, and I think he's right. He mentions James Catterall's evaluation of the schools working with the Chicago Arts Partnerships that found that test scores were rising faster in those schools than they were in comparable schools without the program--results that got serious attention from the Chicago Board of Education. But the reason students do better is intimately connected to arts' intrinsic effects.

Here's what Nick writes:

. . . Over the last few years I have concluded that what James reported and what I have seen in those classrooms is not instrumental at all. We mistake it as instrumental because we define "art", as Eric says, by its nouns, the products that artists make. But if art is understood as multiple ways of engaging the world, making sense and meaning from it, and expressing that meaning through a medium, we would understand that the cognitive gains the test may (or may not) reflect and the language mastery that comes with the photography lessons are part of an integrated package. Intrinsic and instrumental are, like the subjects in the curriculum, ways of categorizing the world that can be helpful. But they can also blind us to the complexity of the world, and I'm afraid they do in this case.
We could easily say that the "intrinsic" benefits you ascribe to art your post - "pleasure, arts experiences develop in us the capacity to move imaginatively and emotionally into different worlds (as James Cuno has so aptly described), to broaden our field of reference beyond the confines of our immediate experience; to exercise our capacity for empathy; to develop our faculties of perception, interpretation, and judgment; and to form common bonds of humanity through some works of art that manage to convey what whole communities have experienced" - are instrumental. I want to experience some pleasure, so I watch a movie. That is instrumental.
I think the confusion grows fundamentally from the frame that defines art: it is broadly understood as affective, sensual, and expressive, and not cognitive. But the most current cognitive science seems to be showing that this is a continuation of what Antonio Dimasio, the noted neuroscientist has called "Descartes Error."
I say, let's take a page from the playbook of our new president-elect. Let's call a time out in this intrinsic-instrumental debate. It is not either or. It is both and.
December 4, 2008 12:08 PM | | Comments (3) |
While empirical findings with their important facts and figures support music education, these are meaningless without the passion and creative energy of the performers/teachers/facilitators/coaches.

To perform a piece of music successfully requires technique and artistic impulse working hand-in-hand. Logic and spontaneity are both critical elements, as are countless hours of diligent practice and rehearsal.

Music education in the schools is no different. I think we sometimes risk forgetting about the artistic side of music education. We study the most effective methods and their outcomes as determined by evaluation and assessment but we must remember that to maximize the experience, music education must be suffused with passion - passion for the music itself and passion for the delivery.

December 4, 2008 10:48 AM | | Comments (3) |

Two short observations:

1. Laura (and Rand) recommend collaboration and serious discourse between the arts and the arts education communities. I strongly recommend including the research and the general education communities. As change in schools is about the power and who has it (as I say, it's political), neither the arts community nor the arts education community (alas) are in positions of power (which is one of the reasons we are blogging away at these issues). In some respects, the research and the education communities aren't much stronger, but if we pull together, there is a larger likelihood that "they" will pay attention to us and our concerns, a larger chance of action,

2. For your reading pleasure: I attach a connection to a guest editor piece for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer by John Goodlad that brilliantly summarizes the context and the background for this blog. While it doesn't mention the arts, the implications are "powerful" and worth your attention..

In short, the answer to what is to be done is, we're doing it...but the larger answer is that we and others must keep on keeping on....enlarging the circle of respondents and audiences...I hope we attract both the powerful and the thoughtful


December 4, 2008 10:19 AM | | Comments (2) |
Laura suggests we're like a jazz group, each riffing from our own perspective yet some common chords emerging. One, for me and Jane and Sam and others, is the specificity of experience necessary for the arts to work their power. All comes home to individuals, alone or together, "knowing within" themselves as the arts uniquely allow by the "making special" each art exists to provide. All else -- advocacy, curriculum, arts providers, on and on -- are servants of this humanity-making. At bottom, unlike No Child Left Behind, is, for me, Each Child Fulfilled as the goal of education, in our case each child fulfilled aesthetically/artistically. School art programs are now and likely long into the future the mechanism most situated to provide that opportunity, with ongoing, developmental learnings provided by teachers with 4 or 5 years of education precisely in that direction. (Well that's the goal, any way). Yet in school arts education the separate arts have always gone their own way, trying desperately to make their own case. Collaboration among them is only recently beginning to appear: every step toward it can strengthen each and all. And involvement of the art community with the education community has proven, from long and troubled experience, to be another healthy route but only if that involvement is closely collaborated. Otherwise no progress in learnings. The underlying chords of the jazz band, establishing the foundation for diverse riffs, is what we "thinkers" are after. I'd suggest, for Laura and her colleagues, a careful synopsis of the blogs after this wonderful orgy. We need someone to pull it all together, illuminating the possible collaborations we can build on. Then plans for organizational, ongoing efforts to make those collaborative efforts possible. An agenda worthy of the arts in education and of us as professional devotees.
December 4, 2008 9:56 AM | | Comments (1) |
The RAND report that is the catalyst of this blog is about increasing public demand for the kinds of artworks usually identified as outstanding examples of art and design, dance, music, theatre, creative writing, film, and so forth, and combinations thereof in all their glorious variety. The  report's treatment of and positions on arts education is in terms of reaching this specific goal, even though it represents only one important purpose for arts education.

So, another thought experiment:  To what extent do you believe that the public demand goal espoused by this RAND report can be reached faster or more efficiently without public education in the arts disciplines on a significant scale? For example, would subsidizing admission fees, raising expenditures on advertising exponentially, pushing the arts as a brand throughout all education without worrying about arts discipline content, relying heavily on political symbolism, promoting friend-to-friend marketing, etc. be more effective short- or long-term?  In other words, to what extent and in what areas are RAND's recommendations wrong?   As you think about this, please consider the following two paragraphs.

Whatever your answer, many professionals with high levels of arts education, training, and commitment are going to continue teaching the arts to the public from their various disciplinary perspectives, including performance, to as many people as possible. These professionals serve as instructors in community schools of the arts, private teachers of the arts, arts specialists in public and private schools, professors leading collegiate arts courses for majors in non-arts fields, and usually supplementing sequential education,  the educational staffs of art museums, theatres, opera companies, etc., arts critics and writers, and artists who teach part time. Richard Kessler's term "evergreen"  is credible because of the work of these professionals over many decades. While reports, projects, and meetings come and go, funding is fickle, and the hockey puck with the "latest thing" written on it moves from place to place, these folks remain at their tasks.  There are tens of thousands of them, and to one extent or another, each group of them is organized.  In an overall sense, each group knows what to do, and members work at getting better all the time.  

Whatever your answer, success with the RAND report goal in any given situation still depends fundamentally on specific choices about content, whether you want to base the effort in formal education or not, or even if you want to marginalize education altogether.

Thanks to Jane Remer for urging realism about prospects for educational planning on a grand scale.  The RAND report proposes state and local efforts to help the professionals in paragraph three above to work with greater synergy where they are.  For me, the best next steps would be working on ways to make this happen, ways that improve conditions long term and avoid threatening the fragile existence of delivery systems critically important to the mix. 
December 4, 2008 9:55 AM | | Comments (0) |

Richard sent in a comment which should show up on the blog soon (I just got it for "approval"), but I wanted to "publish" it to make sure to share it with everyone.  Here is what Richard wrote:

I do want to clarify that I wasn't necessarily offering these bullets as my own prescription of the specifics we should be employing, but as trends or buckets of work that I observe the field working on/talking about.

I do think that in a general, certainly less than concrete way, you're seeing a number of ingredients necessary to pursue what has described. That being said, it's pretty complicated in terms on the details and whether or not there should or could be coordination beyond local work, as Eric has been asking about, and how well the work can be done in a large scale.


Thanks, Richard, for the clarification. Here's the rub: The holy grail of reform/change is elusive. Once it appears to be "in motion" (note I did not say "working") everyone is in a huge hurry to "replicate" it, that is, in USDOE parlance "bring it to scale."....and that haste and optimism is always the undoing of any promising strategy, approach, experiment etc....especially in education, and especially American education.

To summarize (and if you want a list of books beside my own that reinforce what I'm about to say, let me know -- the authors include researchers/practitioners/professors Richard Elmore, John Goodlad, Seymour Sarason, David Tyack and Larry Cuban, - for starters):

To state what would seem obvious (but what is consistently ignored by the policy police, both public and private, who want to make sure their "investment" in change pays off by generalizing to everyone else on the planet), every classroom, every school, every district has it's own "culture", politics, (and education is always political), values, and ways of doing business. To assume that the ways your school figured out how to solve a problem, let's say providing arts education to every child in the school in a course of study that has scope and sequence throughout all the grades, to assume that your choices, solutions and experience will "transfer" (apply) to anyone else without a huge amount of adjustment, adaptation and revision (if not overhauling), is simply vain. My experience with the six school district members of the League of Cities for the Arts in Education (JDR 3rd Fund enterprise) taught me and everyone else engaged some rich lessons.

All you can reasonably expect is that, with enough instances of "success" (and that's another challenge - by whose definition?), you can in fact generalize some of the fundamental beliefs, strategies, and criteria for constructing your own version of a solution to say, the arts education problem I just described above. You cannot prescribe uniform change in our idiosyncratic school systems with wildly different socio-economic characteristics and understandings of the arts as education. 

So, bringing invention to scale works in factories, engineering  and to some degree in those countries that have a national curriculum (though the implementation of that curriculum is always influenced by those who teach).

We're back to one school at a time, I'm afraid, and the point is to accept that and then try to figure out what the essential characteristics and strategies  for change are required to allow us to make some suggestions about creating a good process for making top notch arts education accessible to all kids.

We have a lot of work to do, not the least of which is coming to some kind of consensus on what is meant by quality teaching and learning in, through and about the arts. But, of course, that's where the rubber hits the road because there are so many variations of arts education, so many different sources of instruction, and so far, other than the NAEP assessment several years ago, no consensus on how to assess excellence.

I suspect that if we could get Bill Clinton and a bunch of his wonks together to address the challenge and come up with the money to do some long-range (5 to 10 years) research and development in strategic spots across the country, we might make some progress with this tantalizing question. 



December 4, 2008 7:43 AM | | Comments (3) |

As the sage Wayne Grezky observed, "A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be." Where is the puck going to be in arts learning?

The biggest growth area for kids' arts learning is after-school programs.  Working parents demand them and sometimes pay for them; employers and mayors demand them; society is building them every day.  And lots of them use arts learning as a core focus, a recruiting tool, a collection of ways to help kids learn and grow, and a source of joy.  That's where the puck is going.

Can artists and arts organizations skate to where the puck is going to be?  The after-school world is full of part-time job opportunities. It's increasingly where the kids are.  And while some of the scarce after-school minutes are booked for reading and math, there are lots of minutes available for the most creative offers to fill them. The location of this puck isn't hard to predict.  It's right in your community, a short trip from your arts organization.

Low-income parents and kids want after-school programs that emphasize school success - for part of the time, they loudly say in survey after survey.  For the rest of the time, the arts are at the top of their most-wanted list. The demand is there. Are the arts there?

December 4, 2008 5:20 AM | | Comments (9) |

I was struck by Eric's desire to see real change happen in his/our lifetime. If there's a lesson to learn about our K-12 work, I think the lesson is that the work is long-term. There's no magic bullet. The education field is littered with school reform interventions, large and small, smart and dumb, often disconnected from where the real work takes place, with teachers and students, as Jane pointed out earlier. If you want to read more about that, I would suggest picking up Left Back, A Century of Battles over School Reform, by my friend, Diane Ravitch.

In the early to mid-90s, Rob Horowitz, Mitchell Korn, and I authored a plan to create The Center for Arts Education in New York City, securing what would initially become a five-year grant of $36 million in funding from The Annenberg Foundation, government, and private funders to revitalize arts education in the New York City public schools. It was part of the Annenberg Challenge and was created by a large scale, community-based planning project that believe it or not included over 100 people providing feedback to 10 drafts. The research for this project covered virtually every aspect of arts and education imaginable in New York City and beyond. The project was then led by Hollis Headrick, Laurie Tisch, and Greg McCaslin.

There have been considerable successes, including the creation of categorical, per-capita funding averaging $65 per student, restricted to spending on arts education (this fund reached a level of $75 million per year, at a time when the entire NEA budget was $99 million); the hiring of well over 600 certified arts specialists; major media attention (NY Times front page, editorial page, and more); the creation of a senior arts education position and office at the Board of Education, that eventually grew to over eight full-time staff members; a public private/partnership that included city government, the Board of Education, and the local teachers union, supported by civic and business leadership throughout the city; the building of over 130 innovative whole school arts education partnerships with hundreds of cultural and community-based organizations, and post secondary institutions, bringing arts education to every students in those partnership schools; and a public refocusing on arts education in New York City as never seen before or since. 

While arts education in New York City has certainly advanced, the work of CAE never went to the scale intended: providing access and quality arts for all children. There are now almost 1500 schools in the system! Among the many successes, there were misses, particularly in the areas of sustained advocacy, and in moving arts education into the educational mainstream. In addition, it appears, according the NYCDOE studies that we are losing ground in a number of key areas, and as a local community may not be well prepared to deal with the economic downturn. And, the categorical funding, which had leveled off at a mere $67 million per year, has been eliminated (to support empowering principals).

As we passed the mid-way point in this online discussion, I want to express my belief that our work is evergreen. The success of CAE in the 90s, resembles in many ways the success of Big Thought today. The arts curricula of today, some of which appears so innovative and important, are only an iteration of the many arts frameworks and curricula of the past 40 years. The much talked about report by RAND, only echoes the early reports like Coming to Our Senses. The teaching artists of today were pioneered by the Ford Foundation sending composers into schools for three-year residencies in school systems as early as 1962. The national commitment of The Wallace Foundation is echoed by the commitment of The Annenberg Foundation, which is echoed by an earlier arts education effort by the very same The Wallace Foundation, which is echoed by the truly groundbreaking philanthropy of The JDR 3rd Fund beginning in 1967.

We are building, or attempting to build a new house, brick-by-brick, as the shape of the bricks change, as the design of the blueprints change, as earlier bricks erode, all in ways that we can not necessarily predict, making sustainability difficult at best, illusory at worst.

The work is evergreen.

December 4, 2008 4:56 AM | | Comments (4) |

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