Recently by Bennett Reimer
We all share so many ambitions for the arts, and our hearts desire their full recognition as central to meaningful lives. Each of us works in a particular corner of the larger enterprise, and we recognize that our corner presents more conundrums than we know how to solve. I've been further educated by this effort to how complex the inclusive field is, compounding, it seems, the unsolved problems of each part.
In my part, music education, the largest and perhaps most complex (organizationally) of the arts education fields, national level think tank conferences have occurred regularly over the decades, many of which I've had the privilege of participating in, the most recent the Centennial forum celebrating 100 years of MENC. (No, I was not there when MENC started, thank you). Now the visual art educators have followed suit, with their initial such small-sized invitational gathering in Aspen in August, to address the future of that field in a time of great uncertainty. Also an eye-opening event. Each time, I'm made aware of, and become more humbled by, the scope and complexity of the issues we face, and our limited although hopeful attempts to reach definitive solutions. So I've had to learn (kicking and screaming) to be patient, to be modest in expectations, to be grateful for small but important steps toward clarity and coherence. Same here. So many compelling ideas from people with admirable ambition and intense desire (not to mention high intelligence) to make the goods of the arts more freely and authentically available to all. We need to continue our efforts while recognizing the need for patience and for humility, yet still with passion about our mission. The answers to our prayers are not going to appear in a blaze of light, I've finally come to accept. But we have the responsibility to keep shining our particular light, to keep the conversations going, to share our desires honestly and positively, to be open to those of others. Yes, I agree with the emerging consensus -- more efforts are needed to reach concurrence about both ends and means. For all of us the obligation is: Keep on truckin'!
This is a rich discussion indeed. Fascinating yet frustrating in its many threads yearning for a discernable pattern into which to be woven. At the general end is the desire to "teach creativity." But as Gardner has so clearly explained, there is no "general" creativity -- each role humans play entails its genuine ways to be creative, and transfer from one to another is unlikely except with more massive attempts to cause it than we know how to make. (Same with "critical thinking," etc.). Nothing substitutes for real encounters with art in all its ways of being, each role in each art its world of meanings/doings.
SO: Sam's mind game of "what would you do with x number of interactions with kids" leads me to an answer. I would identify the major roles each art enables to be played (not difficult) and introduce each of them to that imagined class by having them play each role under the guidance of an encouraging teacher, assisted, as often as possible, by community members who actually live that role, whether as aficionado, amateur, or professional, giving each experience as much time as can be devised within the limits of time available. I would encourage each child to "try on" each role, and the many kinds of art entailed in the many roles, to see which of them fit comfortably and delightfully. A good general education in the arts would do this, year by year in developmental fashion. Then (isn't it nice to dream?) electives in all those roles would be available at appropriate grade levels for the individuals who have discovered a delight in any of them and the desire to pursue it (them) further with specialized teachers. The result? An arts educated young person, equipped to enjoy the arts in whatever way(s) appropriate for his/her individuality, both now and in the future. This is doable, not just pie in the sky. It rescues the diversity of each individual student as being the point and purpose of education, in the arts and every other domain. And gives us a tangible goal in consonance with our larger hopes for the security of the arts in education, supported deeply because it addresses individual needs for fulfillment in all their multiplicity. Yes? No? Maybe?
Good point, Jane. We can go on and on claiming in loud and eloquent voices how wonderful the arts are, and how arts ed. is the answer to our culture's arts problems. But when our programs are narrowly conceived, serving few students, ignoring many if not most of their interests and ways of accessing the arts, disparaging their arts enthusiasms, and taught by teachers who, while devoted and well meaning, have been inadequately prepared to deal with the real world of the arts as our kids are confronting it, including technologically, our claims come across as self serving. Good teachers of comprehensive, genuine programs remain the core of our strength and contribution, as you suggest.
WHAT: Arts programs in the schools are neglected, especially when societal concerns are focused on the "basics," as occurs regularly and expextedly (and ferociously as in No Child Left Behind). We professional arts educators want more time, money, importance, respect, as part of basic education.
WHERE: Is our problem inside arts education or outside? Outside, the arts are flourishing, at least reasonably if not remarkably. Certainly we don't lack art-making talent. We have so much of it, at such high levels, that it is societally unlikely, perhaps impossible, to support all who aspire to be professional artists.
Inside, music education, and, I am sure, the other arts ed. fields, exist largely on art-making (performance in the case of music ed.). Some 9 to 15 % of kids in schools elect participation. Is that likely to be considered "basic" education? Hardly. Until our offerings engage all students in more broadly-based arts instruction in the general ed. aspect of schooling, K-12, and offer electives attractive to more than a small minority, we will continue to exert minimal influence on our culture's art life. The major problem we face is found by looking inward to our own deficencies.
Sam Hope, executive director, The National Office for Arts Accreditation (NOAA);
Jack Lew, Global University Relations Manager for Art Talent at EA;
Laura Zakaras, RAND;
James Cuno, Director, Art Institute of Chicago;
Richard Kessler, Executive Director, Center for Arts Education;
Eric Booth, Actor;
Bau Graves, Executive director, Old Town School of Folk Music;
Kiff Gallagher, Founder & CEO of the Music National Service Initiative and MusicianCorps
Bennett Reimer, Founder of the Center for the Study of Education and the Musical Experience, author of A Philosophy of Music Education;
Edward Pauly, the director of research and evaluation at The Wallace Foundation;
Moy Eng, Program Director of the Performing Arts Program at The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation;
John Rockwell, critic;
Susan Sclafani, Managing Director, Chartwell Education Group;
Jane Remer, Author, Educator, Researcher
Michael Hinojosa, General Superintendent, Dallas Independent School District
Peter Sellars, director
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