Many of your administrators have not had an art experience since
elementary school. Maybe there is no art requirement for people
planning to be superintendents, principals or APs in your state.
If their exposure to art has been scant, your superiors may have
received notions of the role of the art teacher. Some
administrators believe that art is therapeutic and calming for
students and they put them in art classes not so much to dump them
as to heal them. They may not articulate this misguided belief.
Some understand that students who have difficulty with academics can
find success in art. They might be thinking of all the different
kinds of learners there are (a la Gardner). You may be having
conversations in your school about your responsibility to reach all
the different learners presented to you.
To those who do not have our specialized education and vocation, art
can be mystifying.
With NCLB school leaders are under the gun to bring scores up. They
may loose their jobs if they don't. So they
devalue the "specials" in favor of more test prep.
At this time in education history we are experiencing another
back-to-the-basics-movement. These are recurrent and cylical.
Your art programs might be experiencing a backlash that has less to
do with what art is and isn't than with the education environment
What role can the visual arts play at this time? it is easy to feel
dissed, dispensable, and defensive. My advice for this particular
time in history is to find some ways you can show good faith with
your superiors and suggest projects that interact with the major
subjects. Not all the time. Sometimes.
We can hope that art will gain its place in the curriculum and be
valued for its own reasons one day, as it has been in the past. But
don't hold your breath. Look at the history of art in schools and
you will find it has always mostly had a tough go.
As part of my research for the doctorate I have looked at the
histories of art education written in the last 50 years. All of
them address this issue. Meanwhile we do our best and squeek away
Happy Thanksgiving. Give thanks for being an artist; for students
who love art now, and those who may one day, thanks to the art
seeds you are planting.
See you when you come to NYC for NAEA. If you want to come to
Brooklyn, we can walk the bridge to my house.