Defying Doug

By John Rockwell

Doug says we should confine ourselves to single topics and be punchy and clear. So I will mention several topics, foggily. As I look through the Rand/Wallace report, several questions arise in my grumpy mind, and Jane Remer has mentioned a few of them.

WHOSE culture? Neo-cons think there are universal standards which just happen to be epitomized by Dead White European Males, and that is the kind of cutlure that the Rand report seems to focus on. (Jazz, being hopelessly non-commercial by this point, has been tokened into the pantheon).

European countries with more or less homogeneous ethnic populations and cultural traditions can make public arts support work (despite Muslim riots in the banlieues, etc.). The U.S. is a multi-cultural society with fierce opposition to government "interference." The resistance of the non-white "minority," soon to be the majority, seems to me as much based on resistance to white high culture as to a lack of training/knowledge.

I'm very uncomfortable with the lingering, persistent commerical/non-commercial divide, and the bias toward the non-commercial inherent in the Rand report. Dismissing the "culture industry" (Adorno) derives from a curious combo of American Puritanism and latent Marxism.

When I was a child I HATED being schlepped to symphony concerts and museums. Yet I wound up deeply involved in them and all the high arts (and low ones, too). Perhaps our trips were poorly prepared when it came to the teachers providing the proper background for the "aesthetic experience." But maybe the very idea of exposing restless children to The Arts is somehow flawed.

That all said, I have to think that arts education is valuable in some important sense. Certainly it can enhance the experience for someone already susceptible to it. But perhaps the (inherent?) susceptiblity will itself inspire those so blessed to educate themselves. That's the way it worked for me.

November 30, 2008 4:23 PM | | Comments (2) |


When it comes to arts education, I don't have a problem with the "lingering, persistent commercial/non-commercial" divide for this simple reason: Sony generally doesn't need a subsidy to promote its pop-culture products.

It's not a matter of snobbery; I watch plenty of TV, listen to pop music, watch popcorn movies.
And I don't have a problem with using such material in a classroom.

But pop culture is aggressively available to children. The 'non-pop' arts, generally the live and local ones, the 'slow ones' (museum-going, for example), are usually not pushed by billion-dollar conglomerates.

Even though you hated going to the "Arts Education" exercises when you were a child, don't you think they must have had SOME affect on how you grew to love culture?

Leave a comment


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

Our Bloggers

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;
Midori, Violinist;
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


Contact us Click here to send us an email... more

Peter Sellars on Creativity & the Voice more

Archives: 83 entries and counting


Blog Sponsor


Recent Comments

Jerome Weeks commented on Defying Doug: When it comes to arts education, I don't have a problem with the "lingering...

JonBoy commented on Defying Doug: Even though you hated going to the "Arts Education" exercises when you were...