A Word to the Wise from Bob

By John Rockwell

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 Bob@music-for-all.org. 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) |


Dear John - I for one kept hoping you would join in one or more of the discussions with serious (as distinct from potshotting) intent. Part of the problem has been that there are at least 4 or so agendas being pursued, some personal, some professional, some about progress/change/moving "the field" ahead, and finally the Rand agenda about arts education and it's impact on culture. Furthermore, some of us want action, others want to dream of ideal circumstances, still others are convinced that one or more strategies will cure our ills, and on and on.
The what shall we do next folk appear to have prevailed, or at least take up most of the airspace...it seems to me that since you have chosen to take a somewhat critical if not cynical attitude toward what some of us are dead serious about, you should not be surprised to feel left out or ignored...
But, like I said above and in earlier messages to you, I had hoped you'd join in and contribute some solutions to problems you identified, problems relating to arts education k-12 (the Rand parameters for this discussion), and the threat to American culture should arts education in pubic schools disappear.

Hi Eric...

Yes... the the teacher/artist conversation has gone on for a long time. Often each is just talking past/over the other. Yet... as I mentioned in my post to Laura's "Not either/or" post... when the two sides come together to the engage our children in the arts in a real and meaningful way... magical stuff happens. The whole (working together) is greater than the sum of the parts.

I feel fortunate that I have been able to see the field evolve to the point where... at least a decent sized ecosystem... NJ... arts organizations and educators are working together in a very cooperative and mutually supportive way. Most folks have come do develop and understand roles and responsibilities. The old suspicions and mistrust have given way to a real collaborative spirit. Perfect... no. But we have come a long way from the fire fights of the mid 90's.

Where we take this collective conversation from here is the hard part. But... as a much wiser person once said... nothing worth doing is ever easy. And what could be more worth doing than working toward that elusive holy grail of all of the arts, in all of our schools, for all of our children, all of the time (tip of the hat for lifting this riff from my friends at the California Alliance for Arts Education)

Bob, I think your observation/critique is apt. And not unfamiliar. The arts ed field is not good at actually hearing those outside its concerned cadre. We make assumptions about what people know and care about and alienate those who don't "get it." And then don't understand why. I see it at every level. I see an artist go into a school and feel she doesn't belong when the edujargon starts flying; and then artists use their lingo at a workshop with teachers and the teachers feel condescended to or dissed. Apologies and thanks for the gentle reminder. One way we could model greater inclusivity for a culture that is arts-ambivalent would at least be to communicate in ways that invite and include everyone. To walk our culturally-essential talk.

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This Conversation For decades, as teaching of the arts has been cut back in our public schools, alarms have been raised about the dire consequences for American culture. Artists and arts organizations stepped in to try to... more

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JANE REMER commented on A Word to the Wise from Bob: Dear John - I for one kept hoping you would join in one or more of the disc...

Bob Morrison commented on A Word to the Wise from Bob: Hi Eric... Yes... the the teacher/artist conversation has gone on for a lo...

Eric Booth commented on A Word to the Wise from Bob: Bob, I think your observation/critique is apt. And not unfamiliar. The arts...