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Guest Blog: Jane Remer, CliffNotes, A Bastille Day Wish List

Congratulations, Richard, on this memorable Bastille Day which is also a marker for your second year on Dewey21C. I am delighted to be among your guests although lately I have been fairly mute. Once I finished the extensive article for Arts Education Policy Review (From Lessons Learned to Local Action: Building Your Own Policies for Effective Arts Education, Volume 111, Number 3, 2010) I needed to take a breather and gather my mental strength. I am hoping to expand it into a book once I get the go-ahead from the AEPR publisher.

Meanwhile, a few words on my perspective for the arts as education as of today. I wish I could say that we are due for a Bastille Day celebration for the reinstatement of the arts as a line item in the New York City school system budget. It would be nice to assert that more and more of our principals will be eager to learn the value of the arts for all their kids and follow the guidelines I laid out in my Lessons Learned article for effective arts education programs and policies. It would be fantastic if the classroom and specialists teachers in our schools would unite to extol the impact of the arts in their classrooms and cultural partnerships; we need both the principals, teachers, students and parents as our champions more now than ever. It would be remarkable if all the education directors in the cultural community, who are usually lowest on their institutional totem pole, would join to make a compelling case for their contributions to their organization and importance to the civic health of our great city.
Those are just a few of my perpetual wishes for the next year. And because I’ve lived through so many cycles of foreign wars, shrunken economics, school system “reforms” and political upheavals, I sigh and then more or less accept that embedding the arts as education for all our children and youth remains a tantalizing dream in our continuing American experiment. As Deb Meier reminded the NYSCA gang at last year’s final ESP summer seminar, schooling is hard change, requires a will, patience, stubbornness, and probably cockeyed optimism that keeps folks like us struggling to make progress, however modest, toward our goal.

Jane Remer
July 14, 2010
JANE REMER’S CLIFFNOTES We are at another rocky precipice in our history that threatens the survival of the arts in our social fabric and our school systems. The timing and magnitude of the challenges have prompted me to speak out about some of the most persistent issues in the arts education field during the last forty-plus years. My credo is simple: The arts are a moral imperative. They are fundamental to the cognitive, affective, physical, and intellectual development of all our children and youth. They belong on a par with the 3 R’s, science, and social studies in all of our elementary and secondary schools. These schools will grow to treasure good quality instruction that develops curious, informed, resilient young citizens to participate fully in a democratic society that is in constant flux. I have chosen the title Cliff Notes for this forum. It serves as metaphor and double entendre: first, as short takes on long-standing and complicated issues, and second, as a verbal image of the perpetually perilous state of the arts as an essential part of general public education. I plan to focus on possible solutions and hope to stimulate thoughtful dialogue on-line or locally.
Jane Remer.jpgJane Remer has worked nationally for over forty years as an author, educator, researcher, foundation director and consultant. She was an Associate Director of the John D. Rockefeller 3rd Fund’s Arts in Education Program and has taught at Teachers College, Columbia University and New York University. Ms. Remer works directly in and with the public schools and cultural organizations, spending significant time on curriculum, instruction and collaborative action research with administrators, teachers , students and artists. She directs the Capezio/Ballet Makers Dance Foundation, and her publications include Changing Schools Through the Arts and Beyond Enrichment: Building Arts Partnerships with Schools and Your Community. She is currently writing Beyond Survival: Reflections On The Challenge to the Arts As General Education. A graduate of Oberlin College, she attended Yale Law School and earned a masters in education from Yale Graduate School.

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