By Eric Booth

As we come down the homestretch of this blogalogue (sorry, let's never use that ugly neologism again), I have been reflecting on its impact on me. [Reflection itself deserves a mention in here, as an fundamental cognitive function, a learning-essential according to John Dewey, that is squeezed out of current schooling--and the arts provide a haven for that capacity; when doing teaching artist work myself, it sometimes feels like I am doing remedial reflective work with the class.] I come to the end of the week with the mix of feeling daunted and rejuvenated at the same time. Perhaps this blog is not so different than the healthy environment for arts learning which is concurrently both safe and charged. Perhaps a passionate player in any field who faces "a sea of troubles" with dubious resources but strong-smart-committed colleagues feels just this. And we have heard many reminders in this week that it ain't all troubles out there--arts education accomplishes a lot.

We are not alone--American arts education is somewhere in the middle of the international pack overall. (I believe we have the world's best teaching artists and the most in-depth partnerships between schools and cultural organizations in the world.) Arts educators in most countries feel many of the same frustrations, bemoan testing demands that strangle the arts, and a lot of them are worse off than we are. Annie Cornbleet from England's Daniel House school puts it: "The arts are the antibiotic injection in the bum of the diseased body of 21st century education." A speaker from Spain found education worldwide to be so rotten at the core, so profoundly wrong, that he believes its current institutional life will just implode one day, like the former Soviet Union; and that the ruins will allow the arts to be seen as the solution to the problem our culture refused to admit it had.

No revolution ever happened without a lot of talk. So we will keep using words and the other power tools of the arts to change the culture--as artists have done since day two in human history. The etymology of "culture" does not mean high arts or sophisticated learning. It's meaning of origin is closer to "agriculture." Like that agar agar in your ninth grade biology Petri dish, culture means "the medium in which we grow."

Thanks to Doug for giving us this platform. Thanks to these generous colleagues. Thanks to those who took the time to read and consider our jumble of thoughts. Doug tells us that this blog is the most read of any he has ever hosted on Arts Journal.

December 5, 2008 1:25 PM | | Comments (0) |

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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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