Okay Bob....here goes...
When I first read Diane's posting on the "status" issue, I thought..."been
there, done that." I recalled writing a column for our state newsletter on
the "low status" of art education and the need for advocacy. I found it on
my hard drive (isn't technology wonderful!), read it over, and decided to
post a portion of it that I feel pertains to the current discussion and
that expresses my feelings on the subject:
In this period of political, social and technological change, arts
educators at all levels are being challenged to reevaluate and reassert the
role of the arts in general education. As fiscal restraints press
legislators and school administrators to rethink priorities, it is not
unusual for the arts to be viewed as a "luxury" rather than a "necessity."
Thus, we are witnessing attacks on the arts and arts education programs at
the national level as well as at the state and local levels.
In Florida, we have already seen severe cuts in arts funding as well as
elimination of some well-established arts education programs around the
state. As I write this column, legislators in Tallahassee are considering
eliminating the nine elective credits (which include fine arts courses)
that are currently a part of the required course of study for Florida high
school students. In Alachua country, school board members are considering
eliminating art and music specialists in elementary schools. Here, at the
University of Florida, we are currently fighting an attempt by the College
of Education to reduce the two arts methods courses now required of
preservice elementary classroom teachers to one combined arts methods
(An update: One of the art ed programs eliminated was restored after a
strong public campaign which included billboard postings; the nine elective
credits were maintained; and we still have two separate arts methods
courses at UF.)
For those of us that have been around awhile, we know that this battle over
the importance of the arts is not new. I came across a twenty-year old
book on my shelf today that pertains to our current situation. It's titled
"Arts Education Advocacy" and was published by the U.S. Office of Education
in 1976. As I recall, it was the first book I purchased as a graduate
student at a NAEA conference. In brief, the book describes efforts by
several national arts education organizations to promote arts advocacy
among school administrative associations (e.g., NAESP, AASA, and NSBA).
Perhaps a few quotes from the book would help to summarize its contents:
"In recent years, data has been accumulated which demonstrates the value of
the arts in dramatic ways." (p. 7)
"The talk of integrated arts experiences raised some concern among the arts
"Pictures, words, figures, song, dance, plays, stories. . .they are the
business of education, for they are part of the business of life." (p.38)
"The classroom teacher can not be expected to have expertise in all areas
of the curriculum and professional music and
art educators should be on each staff." (p.41)
"If we believe that the arts are an essential element of our social
existence, it follows that we must have arts education in our schools."
If these statements sound familiar, it should come as no surprise.
Historically, arts educators have long been in the position of having to
defend their place in the school curriculum. What is surprising and
disheartening, however, is to encounter the current assault given the
recognition of the arts in recent Goals 2000 and Blueprint 2000
legislation. How will schools achieve the National Arts Standards without
comprehensive arts instruction provided by qualified arts specialists? How
is it that we've come so far, but gained so little?
What all this illustrates to me is that we all must remain vigilant and
vocal with respect to the value of arts education. We must take every
opportunity that presents itself (and create opportunities ourselves) to
serve as advocates for the arts and for arts education. Whether it is
writing a letter to our local newspaper or state representative, speaking
out at a local school board meeting, or talking to other educators, parents
or our students, we must be clear in stating our case for keeping the arts
strong in our society and a vital part of general education.
We must also be careful to frame our arguments in words that the public
will understand. While we may consider the arts "basic" and "fundamental,"
such cliches will do little to advance our cause. Our written or oral
presentations will be more effective if factual information on the impact
of arts education is included. There are several sources for such
information. I recently received a packet of materials from the Illinois
Alliance for Arts Education (call 1-800-808-ARTS for more information) that
includes the following national research data:
* 91% of the American people believe it is important for children of school
age "to be exposed to theater, music, dance, exhibitions of painting and
sculpture, and similar cultural events."
* 75% say arts courses should be a part of the school day.
* almost 70% are willing to cut administrative costs to support the arts,
and more than half would cut athletics to fund the arts.
* 69% of the American public said they would pay $5 more a year in taxes to
support the arts and cultural activities and facilities. (Americans and
the Arts VI. National Survey of Public Opinion, prepared for the American
Council for the Arts by LH Research, 1992.)
* Students who take art generally score better on their SAT exams.
(Soundpost, Fall 1990.Published by the Music Educators national
One of the more comprehensive resources of arts advocacy information I've
seen lately resides at ARTSEDGE located at
<http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/> on the World Wide Web. At this
website....users will find summaries of 49 pieces of applied and academic
research that relate to the arts in education in addition to excerpts from
an important publication titled "Schools, Communities, and the Arts: A
Research Compendium" developed by Morrison Institute for Public Policy
(Arizona State University) on behalf of the National Endowment for the
Arts' Arts in Education Program. (To order print or floppy disk versions of
"Schools, Communities, and the Arts: A Research Compendium" contact the
education department of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts,
CRAIG ROLAND. Associate Professor-Art Education.
Department of Art, FAC 302, University of Florida, Gainesville Florida.
32611-5801. (352) 392-9165 - Art Ed Office (352) 392-8453 - Fax