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Arts ed as integral, but who teaches?

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From: Pam Stephens (pgstephens_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Fri Aug 01 2003 - 15:10:16 PDT


"The Arts in Education program supports education reform by strengthening
arts education as an integral part of the school curriculum. Its intent is
to help all students meet challenging state academic content and achievement
standards in the arts."

But does "No Child Left Behind" state WHO must teach the arts?

Here in Texas we have the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills as our
standards. And, yes, the arts are included as integral to the TEKS. But --
and here is the rub -- as a money saving device, some school districts are
seeing this as a loophole; that is, they are eliminating fine arts teachers
and requiring that the mandated number of fine arts minutes per week are
taught in the classroom by generalist teachers.

It has been my experience that generalist teachers are usually ill-equipped
to meaningfully teach through the arts. Even the most well intentioned have
a tendency to reduce arts teaching to lower standards.

In my estimation, having a non-arts specialist "teach" the arts is akin to
having an illiterate teach reading. Administration certainly wouldn't ask
me -- the person who cries through checkbook balancing every month -- to
teach math, why should they ask that a person with one or two art electives
on the college transcript to teach art? There's a certain amount of visual
literacy and deeper understanding that is required for teaching the very
complex subjects of the fine arts.

Until we persuade law makers and school administrators that the arts are
best taught by trained arts specialists, I fear in our current climate of
budget cuts that arts teachers will continue to be eliminated. And how
convenient that administrators can still proclaim to parents and students
that "no programs have been cut" while the very heart of the fine arts --
arts teachers -- have been removed.

Just my two cents.

From Texas ... at least for the next few days,
Pam

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