Arts Advocacy – Everyone’s Job!

“If it is to be, it is up to me.” – William H. Johnsen

Can you imagine if there was only enough money in the education budget for one subject to be taught in school? What would it be?

The education of the “whole child” to acquire 21st Century learning skills, with an emphasis on the “Four C’s” – Creativity, Critical thinking, Communications, and Collaboration – is essential to the success of every child, and paramount for the future continuation of arts and creative self-expression throughout the world. This mandates equal-access to quality learning of rigorous curricula, offered to all students enrolled in courses of Fine and Performing Arts, English, Math, Science, World Language, Social Studies, and Physical Education.

4cs-venn

(For an interesting set of articles detailing the above Venn diagram on the four C’s of 21st Century learning skills, see Margo Tripsa’s “Techie Teachers’ Tricks,” beginning with http://techieteacherstricks.com/2013/06/30/the-4-cs-critical-thinking/.)

Why the Arts?

An education in the arts benefits society because students of music, art, dance, and drama gain powerful tools for:

  • Understanding human experiences, both past and present;
  • Teamwork and collaboration;
  • Making decisions creatively when no prescribed answers exist;
  • Learning to adapt to and respect others’ (diverse) ways of thinking, working, and expressing themselves;
  • Learning problem recognition and problem solving, involving expressive, analytical, and developmental tools to every human situation (that is why we speak, for example, of the “art” of teaching or the “art” of politics);
  • Understanding the influence of the arts and their power to create and reflect cultures, the impact of design on our daily life, and in the interdependence of work in the arts with the broader worlds of ideas and action;
  • Developing the essential senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and kinesthetics as intellectual, emotional, physical, creative, and expressive acts;
  • Analyzing nonverbal communication and making informed judgments about cultural products and issues;
  • Communicating effectively.

The “Whole Child” Approach to Education

All of us should already be on board promoting the concepts of “whole child” education in the public schools:

“The demands of the 21st century require a new approach to education to fully prepare students for college, career, and citizenship. Research, practice, and common sense confirm that a whole child approach to education will develop and prepare students for the challenges and opportunities of today and tomorrow by addressing students’ comprehensive needs through the shared responsibility of students, families, schools, and communities.” – ASCD Whole Child Education Initiative http://www.wholechildeducation.org/about/

wholechild-left

Launched in 2007, ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative was an effort to “change the conversation about education from a focus on narrowly defined academic achievement to one that promotes the long term development and success of children.”

My favorite tenets of “whole child” education are the following principles:

  • Each student has access to personalized learning…
  • Each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.
  • Each student is challenged academically…

Sounds a lot like the need for an education in the arts, right?

Need More Rationale?

21stcentury

The Partnership for 21st Century (P21) movement (see www.apple.com/education/docs/Apple-P21Framework.pdf) affirmed what prospective employees are seeking from graduates and others entering the work force –  21st Century learning skills, as well as an authentic work experience and achievement in and appreciation of the values of focus/attention, goal setting, perseverance, self-discipline, and cooperation. Would it surprise you that at every job interview in my life, I was never asked for the results of my SAT scores? For blue-collar and professional jobs alike, credentials/certification and past work/school history are important, but more than anything else, managers and “the big boss” want to know a job applicant’s record of absenteeism and tardiness, and if the candidate can take instruction, solve problems, innovate, communicate, and work well with others.

Where else but in the arts can students receive this exposure to and opportunities to explore and practice the work-related skills of communications and collaboration, and the thinking skills of critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity? You owe it to yourself to check out this more detailed layout:  P21 Arts Map.

If you have not viewed Sir Ken Robinson’s presentation of creativity in education, stop everything right now and go to one of these links:

Read my main page (above) for additional resources on Creativity in Education – Are We Ready for a New Paradigm Shift?

Also, it is worth perusing these sites:

How can you argue with all of this research?

Get Involved!

I find it amusing (albeit appropriate) that on my iPhone, Siri first translated “arts advocacy” as “arts have a good seat.”

There is a great need for arts advocates, and that means absolutely everybody… retired educators, current teachers, future/prospective employees of schools, students, parents, relatives of children attending school, and taxpayers who don’t have anyone enrolled in the public, private, or charter schools.

Politics is a numbers game. Your state legislators need to know that you care about education and the arts as priorities – justifying and finding more revenue and resources for music and art education. In addition, with all of the focus on high-stakes standardized tests and the Common Core (and very limiting) subjects, now more than ever, we all need to reach out to our elected officials and make our voices heard (above all of the din!). Yes, the arts do make a difference, but no one will know that unless you tell the decision-makers!

pmea

Now, here’s something you can do right now! If you reside in Pennsylvania, go to the advocacy section of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association website: http://www.pmea.net/specialty-areas/advocacy/. If you need to find your particular legislator to send the letter/e-mail, first visit this website: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/. If you feel strongly about the importance of arts education, your letter (the sample posted or something like it) should urge our elected officials to:

  1. Increase the basic education subsidy.
  2. Enact a fair funding formula.
  3. Restore the Pennsylvania Department of Education Arts Education Liaison for the curricular areas of music, visual art, theater, dance, and media arts.

(This process can be duplicated in a similar manner for every state in the union. Music and art programs are being cut daily!)

Don’t put this off! When was the last time you devoted a little time to express your opinion directly to your state representative? Didn’t we elect and charge them with the responsibility to do what is right for our educational programs and children? Music and art education needs your help NOW!

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox

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