People say to me, what’s the problem? Is anyone really against the arts in schools?
My typical response is that it’s not often one single event, it’s more about the waves that wash it off the beach. Those waves have been the back-to-basics movement, NCLB, budget cuts, accountability, principal empowerment, site-based management, and so much more.
It’s why some of us in NYC have dug in our heels about fighting to restore dedicated funding (Project Arts) for the arts. This dedicated funding is often the only thing that holds the arts in place, the only anchor so to speak when that wave hits hard.
Also, combined with things like minimum instructional standards, is the only thing that establishes an equitable starting point for all kids in a system. In essence, it’s a tool of both equity and quality with a subject area that needs to be treated in ways different from other subjects, in light of how severely the deck is stacked against it. And by the deck, I mean the educational-industrial-testing-complex.
There are big waves, and then the small ones, which end up in the category I would like to call “death by a thousand little cuts.” Do you know that phrase?
Here is another of the little cuts. Maybe not so little if you have a kid in one of these district schools: A story in Gotham Schools about how the NYCDOE’s plan to expand charter schools into district school space will result in the loss of arts spaces, science labs, etc.
If you don’t know how it works, or can’t believe it, sorry, well it basically works like this. Part of your school building is given over to a charter school. Yes. In essence, that’s just what happens. Kiss your art room goodbye. Applied for a grant from the school district to create a sprung floor for a dance room, and got the money to make an appropriate space for dance education. Tough luck. Kiss your dance room goodbye.
Parents are pissed. Who will listen? A good test of the power of parents.
PS 20, where a large rally of parents in this relatively poor district was held, has had a strong arts program and been a successful schools by most measures for a good decade at least. I know this because it was a long standing partner with The Center for Arts Education.
The parents with kids in the district schools want to know:
“Why is it that whatever option the DOE picks, it will result in the
loss of art and music for a school that is overwhelmingly low-income?”
The charter school operator feels:
“The civil right is to an excellent education,” she said. “It’s not about having an art room.”
My question would be, how the heck can you have an ‘excellent education’ without the arts?
What do you think the answer is???
A thousand little cuts indeed…