Patty Bode's xTED Talk, Art Education as a Civil Right has me pretty fired up about the state of Art Education in the states. While most art teachers will nod in agreement (or perhaps flip over
their desks after carefully removing the laptop from which they are
watching the speech), this is a talk that is important for non-art
teachers to see. In fact, this is a talk that should be seen by anyone
who is interested in the importance of education, which should mean just
about everyone. She directly addresses one of the core issues of why it is difficult for me to think about coming back to the US to teach again - the passive resignation that the arts are "the first to go" as if there were nothing to be done about it.
Although- it never really goes past there does it? I mean, if the arts are the first to go, what goes next? Science? English? Social Studies? No. "The Arts are the first to go" itself is a lie we tell ourselves as if there are other disciplines that would follow. This is not the equivalent of Niemöller's poem about the cowardice of German non-intervention in the Holocaust (First they came for the art classes, and I did not speak out because I was not an artist, then they came for the science classes but I did not speak out because I was not a scientist...). It's not a domino effect that we risk, it's something even more critical. The domino effect suggests that after the first domino falls we can intervene before the rest of the pieces fall.
And before you say, "but wait, schools have been cutting other important subjects as well", Ok, yes, I agree, but the domino effect isn't at play here- this is all part of the disaster created by our environment of high stakes testing. Arts get cut for testing. Arts get cut for budgets. Arts get cut because A comes first in the alphabet. Art gets cut because it's Tuesday. Whatever.
We may call art the 'first to go' but I doubt that many believe this to be true. This sentiment belies a fundamental misunderstanding about the critical importance of the inclusion of art for all students.
Bode explains the necessity of an arts curriculum from a Freirian perspective. Freire believed that free and open education was the key ingredient to a free society. Maxine Greene pulls the contribution of an arts education to this freedom into sharp focus- it is through the arts that we bring into being the possibility of that freedom, to be able to see the potential for change, through imagination.
...and this guy Neitzsche said that existence has no meaning without an understanding and appreciation for aesthetics. If art is the 'first to go' then meaning is the first to go. So there's that.
I'll end on a more hopeful note though- New York city is investing 23 Million dollars in arts education this coming school year. Comptroller Scott Stringer says that "In New York City, the cultural capital of the world, a zip code should never determine whether a student can access arts education in their school".
It's almost as if he watched Bode's video. Ok, your turn: