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Lesson Plans

Interesting Reading from NAEA

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betti longinotti (p-lstudio)
Fri, 17 Oct 1997 17:22:51 -0400

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Read on....I thought you all would be interested!

In Art & Life,
Betti L.
or on the www at

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Date: Fri, 17 Oct 1997 15:44:59 -0400 (EDT)
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From: National Art Education Association <naea>

SOURCE FROM: American Music Conference listserve

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Date: Thu, 16 Oct 1997 10:52:16 -0500
From: Bob Morrison <pp002343>
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Organization: American Music Conference
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In This Issue of Music-News

Arts Education Groups Seize Victory For Field

During the past six months of argument over the future of the National
Endowment for the Arts a disturbing debate emerged about what is arts
education in this country and who is primarily responsible for the delivery
of arts education. As a result, groups which have articulated support for
arts education (provided in schools taught by qualified teachers), were
suddenly opposed to defining what is, and is not, arts education. The
following recap was constructed from faxes, letters, action alerts, meeting
notes and interviews with participants in the debate. While this is by no
means an exhaustive report it clearly highlights the challenges facing the
arts education community at the national level which may have significant
implications for the future of arts education across this country.

This is what we found.


The Threat

During the May hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives on the National
Endowment for the Arts (NEA), it became clear that the Endowment and its
supporters were intent on blurring the arts education issue in order to
"save" the agency, regardless of the implications. Supporters believed
that "hiding behind the protective cloak of education would make the NEA
more politically palatable." The NEA highlighted the Shaw/Rauscher research
about improved brain development in children who study music and claimed
that NEA programs produce these results and therefore must be preserved.
They made the same claims regarding The College Board SAT study and
improved performance by students who study the arts. During subsequent
floor debate, Congressional supporters alleged that "school arts education
programs will disappear without the NEA." This kind of uninformed statement
must be a shock to the over 200,000 arts educators in this country! But,
this was part of a methodical attempt by NEA beneficiaries to reinvent arts
education as a life raft for the NEA with intentional misrepresentations of
the role of the NEA in the arts education enterprise instead of focusing on
the activities of the NEA which are valuable and should be supported in
their own right.

These statements created the prospect of federal legislation that
characterizes arts education as something much less than rigorous study to
produce skills and knowledge in the arts. They jeopardized the status of
arts education as a core academic subject and could provide justification
to local budget cutters who seek to cut school arts programs and replace
them with cheaper arts agency-funded "substitutes." This placed the arts
education community in the difficult position of being forced to defend the
field and oppose the NEA's misuse of arts education without opposing the
Endowment's programs or its very existence.

The Protectors of Arts Education

The Consortium of National Arts Education Associations (American Alliance
for Theatre and Education, Music Educators National Conference, National
Art Education Association, National Dance Association) -- who were
responsible for the development of the National Standards for Arts
Education -- in conjunction with the National Association of Schools of
Music, National Association of Schools of Dance, National Association of
Schools of Theatre, National Association of Schools of Arts and Design, and
NAMM-The International Music Products Association protested to the NEA, NEA
supporters and Congressional leaders this attack on arts education. The
groups demanded the correct definition of arts education if it was to be
used during this debate and vigorously opposed anything that would infer
that the NEA was the provider of arts education in this country.

The Biggest Threat

In July, as part of the Senate NEA reauthorization bill approved in
committee and developed by Senators Jeffords and Kennedy, the NEA's primary
focus would be arts education. However, the bill did not define arts
education. While the bill defined a variety of other items the major
emphasis of the bill (arts education) remained undefined. Instead, it
listed a variety of activities most of which were not "arts education." By
default, these activities would define arts education as any exposure,
entertainment, or enrichment program regardless of whether or not there was
any linkage to the acquisition of skills and knowledge of the arts, as
defined by the National Standards for Arts Education and taught by
qualified teachers. In effect, a new watered down definition of arts
education would be promoted to save the NEA regardless of the impact on
serious arts education in this country.

Trying to Work it Out

In August, The Consortium participated in meetings with the Cultural
Advocacy Group (CAG) and the NEA in an effort to reach common ground on a
definition of arts education based on the 1986 Philadelphia Resolution and
the National Standards for Arts Education.

The Definition: Sequential instruction taught by qualified teachers that is
designed to provide students of all ages with the skills and knowledge in
the arts in accordance with high national, state and local standards which
may be supported by artists and arts organizations.

Despite oral statements of agreement during these meetings, the CAG
lobbyists continued to oppose the agreed upon definition of arts education
and misrepresented the Consortium's intentions to define arts education as
a ploy to divert money from the NEA to arts education (even though several
letters from the Consortium to CAG members protested this
misrepresentation). CAG wrote a letter to the Consortium one month later
rejecting the Consortium's proposed definition. The NEA and members of the
CAG group spent the next month attacking arts education groups and proposed
their own definition to Congressional leaders which stated that arts
education cannot take place without the inclusion of artists and arts
organizations. They moved from refusing to support any definition to
promoting one that threatened the very existence of arts education in this

With all attempts to work together exhausted, and with national groups (who
represent themselves as supporters of arts education) sending alerts to the
field stating "since there is confusion in the public about what is art
education we must reject a definition," arts education advocates across the
country were engaged in a last minute fax and phone campaign to defend
serious arts education. This effort paralyzed several Congressional
offices, making sure the message was heard: Do no damage to arts education.

The Result

The Arts Education community was victorious in working with Congress to
ensure the NEA's role supporting arts education was not over stated, that
the NEA would not be mandated to focus primarily on arts education, and
that arts education was not defined in such a way as to mean something less
than the acquisition of skills and knowledge.

The Interior appropriations conference report funded the NEA subject to
certain conditions, one of which was a funding priority for projects "that
will encourage public knowledge, education, understanding, and appreciation
of the arts." This language properly describes the supporting role of NEA
programs and keeps true arts education issues where they belong.... with
arts educators.


The bad news is this process demonstrated that organizations which have
presented themselves to the public as champions of arts education, at the
end of the day, were not. This is an important wake-up call for the entire
arts education community. To understand, there are those groups that
support arts education because it is has become a good way for them to
raise money. If there was no money tied to arts education these same groups
very well may not be involved. Where as the 200,000 artists in this country
who teach millions of our children in schools every day (our nation's
professional arts educators), and whose views have been ignored in this
debate have no such motive. There only motive, which was missing from this
entire debate, is to bring arts education to our nation's children.

So, the next time someone tells you they support arts education you may
want to ask them "What do you mean by arts education?"

The answer may surprise you.

Bob Morrison
American Music Conference

Phone: (703) 648-9440
Fax: (703) 648-9441