This article, The Hijacking of Arts Education, was forwarded to me by my friend Andy Wolf, who just wrote this terrific and important piece for the NY Daily News urging New York State to forgo applying to Race to the Top.
The first piece, the hijacking piece, which strikes me as a sort of way out there, Joe McCarthy world view where art education is being infiltrated by communists, is just the sort of thing that could end up in the hands of a right wing opposed to funding for the arts, including the NEA, NPR, PBS, CPB, etc. It goes so far as to attack Maxine Greene, making her appear like the second coming of Alger Hiss:
Greene Grants of up to $10,000 are awarded to teachers who “go beyond
the standardized and the ordinary”; artists “whose works embody fresh
social visions”; and
individuals “who radically challenge or alter the public’s imagination
about social policy issues.” The 2008 grantees included the Education
Network–whose 2007 conference, entitled “Free Minds, Free People: A
Conference on Education for Liberation,” bore the following slogan on
its program cover: “If
education is not given to the people, they will have to take it.”
‘Nuff said, but still, worth a fast read.
Okay, moving right along. What this did remind me of, was an issue I have wanted to address since last fall, being the very odd disconnect between those interested in arts and social justice, and the field of arts education.
At the Grantmakers in the Arts preconference last fall in Brooklyn, among the day-long sessions was a track for arts education and a track for arts and social justice.
When the facilitator for the afternoon arts education session, Eric Zachary, Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Director of Community Organizing and Engagement/New York City, learned that there was a separate track for arts and social justice, he appeared puzzled and asked: isn’t this social justice? My answer: indeed, welcome to the arts field.
Okay, just in case you think I don’t get the issue of arts and social justice, I think I have a decent handle on it. People are interested in this because arts have always had a role in this area, giving voice to issues, serving as a means of binding together a community, etc. And, for many, making deeper connections to social issues and the arts field appears to be a very direct way to connect arts, an often challenged field when it comes to community relevance, directly to grass roots issues and those working on the ground.
But hey folks, kids in urban centers being denied the rights by law and as human beings to a well rounded education that includes the arts is clearly a social justice issue, particularly when you consider how this all breaks along socio-economic and racial lines.
So, perhaps, when people are looking to connect the arts more to social justice, they might just look in their very own backyard so to speak, arts education, and ask what they can do to help.