Arts Education: Too Much and Not Enough

One of the things I have been thinking quite a lot about lately, besides having no power at home for the third time since July (four straight days this time), currently resulting from Saturday’s somewhat bizarre snow storm, is the quite odd dichotomy between my work in K-12 and my work today in higher education.

In K-12 it was so often an issue of shoehorning arts education into the school day, extended or traditional. So much of the work evoked questions of how to get a seat at the table, strategies to incentivize the embrace of arts education, skillful ways to integrate the arts into other subject areas and throughout the operation of the school community, and much more, including work on changing policies that tend to keep the arts out.

Running a music conservatory, even one that is part of a larger, progressive university with lots to offer across all sorts of subject areas and activities, is in so many ways the flip-side. How do you shoehorn all sorts of other subjects into the school day? How much practice time is actually needed? What skills and knowledge do students need to master in order to be fully prepared for the world they enter today, as opposed to five, ten, fifteen, and twenty years ago? Should we add more credits, (which is related to the K-12 should we extend the school day)? What is core, what do we value? How do we make change? How do we integrate non-musical subject matter into the traditional core?

An interesting point of convergence between K-12 and higher education resides within the ways we define and defend quality. There are and always will be those who will take issue with arts integration because they believe it shortchanges a quality, sequential arts curriculum. And, of course, as you would expect, in a conservatory there are those who fear that anything we do that takes away time from the historic core of arts instruction, including practice time, major lessons, theory, ear training, etc., will fear the shortchanging of what comprises quality musical training. In K-12 and higher ed, they may very well ask you the very same thing: without rigorous arts instruction, what good is it?

It’s not all that far off from the Jerry Seinfeld’s Bizzaro World, which was originally born out of Superman, Lois Lane, etc.

5 responses to “Arts Education: Too Much and Not Enough”

  1. Very interesting and clip is lol funny! But it makes me wonder which world is which (arts integration or historic core) in this analogy? For me that’s a whole other conversation on real world versus idealized world in arts education. Elaine doesn’t even try to integrate, she is seduced by the seeming perfection of the alternate universe and fails miserably in gaining acceptance and participation. The real question is where are the Elaines who can define and defend quality in both worlds (because to a certain extent they are truly separate), but who can also articulate, interpret, and intervene to bring enough common ground of understanding and purpose for value given, value gained. We need Elaines (might I be talking about new arts leaders?) who get that they do need to ask before hitting the fridge even while championing why Kramer-esque moments enrich the human and learning experience.

  2. With conversations within arts education circles focused on the fear of altering the core of historical instruction and sequential curriculum – along with heated discussion by those outside arts education, battling integration of anything that looks like play into other learning programs – where is there any room for creativity and imagination? When genius comes through the imagination and bursts of creativity – where is the supported space to explore, create and imagine?

    The arts is the most likely space to allow any deviation. However, is the focus too much on the methods and not on results? On views and judgements of peers instead of how to support budding leaders? A quick review on creative leaders whom have been elevated throughout history finds they more often have lived unconventional lives rather than by-the-book. Often (*gasp*) they never complete nor even enter college.

    Before throwing this comment in the trash consider this: By creating a foundation of art and creativity in all areas of education not only will the majority of students learn to implement lessons of creative thinking, problem solving and imagination in their applied areas, but more independent thinkers aka new leaders (whether art, business, sciences) may find renewed interest and hope in traditional education.

    Just a thought.

    • Roxanne,

      I definitely agree with your thought on creating a foundation for artistic thought and creativity in all subject areas. At Arts to Grow, our mission is to provide students in low income neighborhoods with after-school arts education programs specifically for this reason. We believe that by encouraging students to participate in the artistic process their problem solving skills as well as their overall confidence will develop significantly, fostering success in other areas such as math and science. Education in the arts can certainly have a more profound impact on a child’s development then it is given credit for.

      Maureen K
      Proud volunteer writer for Arts to Grow! ~Helping kids in metropolitan NY & NJ find motivation and success through artistic creation!~