So you think you saw the Easter Bunny this morning? But you’re not sure.
The current status of the arts and music are like that in our public schools. One might think these subjects are returning, they’re back…or, not really. Just like the hippity-hoppity bunny that moves in lightning speed, privatization of public schools is sneaky that way.
The April issue of Phi Delta Kappan (PDK) is titled Arts & Music in School. I couldn’t wait to read my copy. But my hopes were dashed. Every article leads to partnerships—not school funding directly for arts and music classes. The issue is also about integrating these subjects into other classes and alludes to a technology takeover (no surprise there).
There’s no mention of bringing back qualified arts and music teachers. There’s little talk of reviving these classes as subjects, without integrating them into math or language arts, to make the school curriculum whole again.
It was catastrophic to defund the arts and music in schools. Mostly, under NCLB, these subjects were slashed to overemphasize reading and math and high-stakes testing.
Some suburban schools and magnets get arts and music. In most charter schools these subjects are incomplete. For many children these classes are no longer a reality. Public schools without arts and music become unpleasant places for parents to send their children.
Piecemeal Federally Funded Partnerships
Now, we are led to believe arts and music are returning. But instead of funding these subjects directly in every public school, students have to rely on, and hope, that outside groups will throw them a taste of these subjects. The first PDK article is “The Art of Partnerships: Community Resources for Arts Education.”
- Young Audiences of Houston have the Arts Access Initiative.
- In Boston, it’s the Arts Expansion Initiative coordinated by a nonprofit organization called EdVestors.
- Chicago is the Creative Schools Initiative by Ingenuity .
- Seattle’s Creative Advantage is where students there get arts and music.
- New Orleans’s KID smART has artists take over as teachers.
These groups look at first glance to be doing nice things. Who can argue against any kind of arts and music compared to nothing? Partnerships could be fine to embellish these programs if students hadn’t lost these subjects to begin with. Such support would add flair and increase community participation with schools. But that’s not what this is about.
With these nonprofits there’s talk of measurable goals, rigorous data collection, grant writing, marketing, and how to convince philanthropies to donate. For most, there’s the desire to improve student test scores in other classes. It’s often about aligning arts and music to Common Core.
When schools get budget cuts that affect their arts and music programs, when the government looks to others to take those classes over, and when funding is determined mostly by outsiders—local school districts are at their mercy to fund those programs.
Partners and philanthropists will fund arts and music the way they see fit, or are able, always measuring student output. Even if the programs seem good today, will they still be there tomorrow? Also, while such partnerships might provide some benefit for students in a big city, what about other places? Not every town has a group willing, or able, to support the arts and music.
Technology Takeover of Art and Music
Another PDK article is boldly upfront, “Let’s Get Rid of Art Education in Schools,” as if there is that much art to get rid of. It is written by an artist, and it is filled with unproven statements. Here’s an example:
In short, every child starts out with a natural interest in art, but for most it is slowly drained away until all that’s left is a handful of teens in eyeliner and black clothing whose parents worry they’ll never move out of the basement.
The author goes on to highlight technology for art in the future. He says, Stop making pinch pots; instead, build a 3-D printer and turn out artificial hands for homeless amputees.
It needs to be said, that most of us are not against adding technology to the public school curriculum, and that would include 3-D printers.
But this is about replacing other forms of art education with technology. And it is about who controls our public schools.
Why can’t students work on pinch pots too?
PDK has plenty of art integration talk. For example, in “Orchestrating a New Approach to Learning,” the Phoenix Symphony is partnering with the local school district. But in order to get students interested in music, musicians have to tie their musical abilities to academics. In order to collaborate with students, musicians can’t just teach the beauty of music, it has to be tied to a math lesson!
Certainly a teacher can incorporate art and music in other classes. But saying you have arts and music covered this way is bogus. Just like saying that providing professional development to everyone in order to bypass hiring real arts and music teachers is deceptive.
The arts and music deserve first class status. We need to offer these classes to students who know they excel, and who crave these subjects from the depths of their souls. We’ve all known students who might not do well academically, but who thrive in the arts. The arts are for everyone, and the greatest inclusion in our schools can take place in those classes.
Band and orchestra, including marching band, provides important socialization, pulling students from all backgrounds together and generating school pride. Without the consistency of thriving arts and music classes in a school, life for students is dim.
More Proof: How Much Is Needed?
School districts and the students in them should not have to justify arts and music by saying that they improve test scores, or they will help children do better math, or they will keep students in school. To continue to stress that we need such accountability with these subjects is foolish. It displays a lack of trust in democratically run public schools and arts and music teachers.
This country needs to quit with the trickery. Pretending the arts are returning with partnerships, or through subject integration, or technology, is only a charade. Our tax dollars should go directly to public schools for these programs and to real arts and music teachers.
Many students in our public schools still do not get adequate arts and music instruction. Until we quit kidding ourselves and commit to fully funding arts and music for all students, they never will. In other words, if you believe you really saw the Easter Bunny, contact me. We need to talk.
Note: National Core Arts Standards are dance, media arts, music, theater, and visual arts. So why aren’t school administrators penalized when they don’t provide students with these subjects? Should we not demand proof that every school including charters and voucher schools provides some experience in these areas to all students?
Bowen, Daniel H., and Brian Kisida. “The Art of Partnerships: Community Resources for Arts Education.” Phi Delta Kappan. 98 (7): 8-14.
Gregory, Danny. “Let’s Get Rid of Art Education in Schools.” Phi Delta Kappan. 98 (7): 21-22.
Mackin, Eileen, Robert Mackin, John Obremski, and Katherine McKie. “A Districtwide Commitment to Arts Integration.” Phi Delta Kappan. 98 (7): 29-33.
Kaplan, Michael. “Orchestrating a New Approach to Learning.” Phi Delta Kappan. 98 (7): 23-28.