The Counter-Intuition of Advocacy

Consider these three points:

1. The school district leader says that the overall school budget is increasing each year, and not to worry. And yes, it’s true: more money was allocated to education in the city budget.

2. The existence of generally supportive school district officials and government leads to increased arts budgets and administrative capacity within the district arts office.

3. Overall, things seem to be improving.

Looking at these three real occurrences, it’s easy to see how building work in arts education advocacy would become a back burner issue.

Essentially people are saying or thinking: things are improving, going in the right direction, advocacy would be a waste of time and, in fact, it may only be seen as a hostile or arrogant approach, not to mention a waste of money.

Let’s look at another set of circumstances.

The economy is in decline. School budgets are tumbling along with everything else.

So, what do you hear?

Advocacy would be a waste of time, in fact, would be seen as being out of touch with the harsh reality that everyone is facing. And, what will it get you in the end, except being viewed as being hostile and unproductive.

 “Work with us,” is what the powers that be say. (Can anyone guess what “work with us” really means?) Email guesses are encouraged…

So, where does it leave you if you shouldn’t advocate when times are good nor when times are bad?

A sinkhole perhaps?

Or, the tumbling economy created demand for advocacy, but the work takes time and can’t be effective long-term when put together overnight.

Where does that leave you?

A sinkhole perhaps?

So, exactly what is the counter-intuition, you may be asking?

You build the necessary advocacy capacities during the good times.

That’s it.

Plus, you have to advocate all of the time.

Third, it’s a bit hard to accept that standing firm for what you believe in is going to ruffle some feathers. Those who really know this work view the feather ruffling as evidence of success. There’s a tad of counter-intuition there as well.

And finally, I leave you with a thought, one that I will come back to:

The kids that get the most arts (and other necessary support and care) in the home most likely get it at school as well.

The kids that get the least arts (and other necessary support and care) in the home most likely get the least in school.