Why are the arts removed from traditional public schools while at the same time charter schools are given carte blanche to create art schools? The New York Times has an article about Voice Charter School where students sing and “outperform” their peers….
Academically, students at Voice did significantly better than the city average on New York State math exams last year, with 70 percent of its students passing, compared with 39 percent citywide. Their English performance was less impressive, but with 39 percent passing, it still beat the citywide average of 30 percent.
Aren’t Americans tired of such comparisons? I am also tired of children being used as pawns in the effort to privatize public schools.
For years there has been an intentional drive to remove the arts from traditional public schools, especially in poor areas. In all public schools there is a decline of the arts and an emphasis on math and English/language arts. High-stakes testing and Common Core leave traditional public schools blending the arts if students are lucky. But blending the arts into other subjects is not the same as exposure to a variety of art programs—painting, singing, drama, and even dance. And a visiting artisan once in a while is not the same as a credentialed art teacher who consistently lets students explore the arts.
Voice Charter School also sounds a bit pushy with the singing. I will explain in a minute.
While many traditional public schools have lost their art programs, the Obama administration subscribes to “I need proof that the arts matter” with a program called Turnaround ARTS which zeroes in on only eight select traditional public schools with $14.7 million. They want to see if the arts keep kids in school and help raise test scores. What happened to the arts most of us knew when we were growing up?
So a few kids in traditional public schools get inundated with the arts, and some charter schools get the arts, while the President tries to figure out if the arts motivate students to stay in school and do better on tests. For a President who seems to enjoy the arts this is very strange thinking. Schools without the arts are merely tutoring centers for math and reading only. American students and the public are shortchanged—big time.
Depriving students in public schools of the arts removes the heart and soul of a school. Parents find great joy looking at their student’s artwork, hearing them play music in a band, watching them march at halftime, sing in a choir, or act and be a part of a play. This is what drives parents to their child’s school.
How often do you hear parents say, “I can’t wait to go hear about Johnny’s test scores” as compared to “Johnny is going to be in a play!”?
Wealthy and middle class families will run with their students as fast as they can, to find a private school that offers the arts, or to an Art Charter School, or to private lessons after school. They will see to it that their kids get the arts. But parents who are not capable, for whatever reason, will have children who get little art, music, and/or drama.
This country has always been known for the arts, and that the arts have not been valued in our public schools for such a long time has been a sad state of affairs for many children. We may never know what artists we have lost.
And while Voice Charter School may give kids the arts, I also wonder about the program itself. I am not impressed by high test scores. And exposure to music is one thing for young children, and yes they sound good, but do they really need to read standard notation—sight read? The article claims this is usually not done until college!
This sounds extreme to me, and the emphasis on competing with public schools that lost their art programs as a charter v. traditional public school scenario is not fair. All children deserve a well-rounded curriculum with exposure to many art forms with credentialed art teachers. ALL children deserve the arts.
Sheila Resseger says
I couldn’t agree more, Nancy. I am flabbergasted at this: “While many traditional public schools have lost their art programs, the Obama administration subscribes to “I need proof that the arts matter” with a program called Turnaround ARTS which zeroes in on only eight select traditional public schools with $14.7 million. They want to see if the arts keep kids in school and help raise test scores.” Isn’t it obvious to any thinking, caring person that the arts are crucial to raising self-actualized adults? In my opinion, visual and performing arts should be the core of the educational program, with the other disciplines branching out and supporting them. That inner city children are deprived of the arts and force-fed test prep in math and reading is unconscionable.
Nancy Bailey says
You would think so! Dan, writing below, says essentially the same thing about the arts needing to be at the core of the curriculum! I have never understood the serious budget cuts to the arts. All children benefit and it can bring different cultures together too. Thank you, Sheila.
Dan DePalma says
Thanks for cutting to the core of the issue…the value of arts is not in its ability to improve achievement, but it creating arts savvy, creative people. I can’t honestly say that studying the arts in school made me more successful in math and reading, but it doesn’t matter. It did give me a career, the ability to discern authentic art from commercial crap, and broadened my horizons to the point that a Langston Hughes poem makes me care for a life I never shared, but now understand and a DeBussey tune can make me feel like a leaf floating with the current. Maybe the question we should ask is, “How are math and reading enhancing our artists?”
Nancy Bailey says
I agree, Dan. And your comment is poetic, so I am convinced the arts worked for you! Thanks for posting. Very well stated!