There is a fantastic mailing list that many of us at the Theatre subscribe to called You’ve Cott Mail. It’s a daily digest of the salient threads in the ongoing discussion around the world about the arts and their future, sent straight to your inbox. (I love that reading and thinking about this stuff is actually part of my job.)
Today, one of those threads was a discussion on the future of arts educations in public school systems, especially given President-elect Obama’s proposed changes to No Child Left Behind.
If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you support (in theory, at least) the need for arts education in the schools. I’ve always been a strong proponent, but I became an impassioned advocate last season, when we were preparing to present Nilaja Sun’s No Child…. Among the many hats I wear, I am the editor of the theatre's playbill magazine. When I saw the first draft of this article, I was horrified.
“Fully literate” teens arriving in high school having never read a book from cover to cover? Middle-school kids who have never learned how to color?
Here’s the problem: how do you set “adequate yearly progress” markers for imagination? And failing to define them, how do you make arts in the schools a priority when an ever-shrinking budgetary pie must cover increasing needs in measurable subjects like English and math?
The Berkeley Rep School of Theatre does a lot of outreach work to local schoolsto help bridge some of that gap, but they’re one organization in one very small part of a very large country.
Obviously, it’s a tough call--where you fund one thing, you can’t fund another. But it’s still a topic worthy of discussion, and I thought I’d throw it out to you…Given the chance, how would you fix our schools? For that matter, do you think art has a necessary place in our educational system? And, assuming it does, how would you bring the arts back into the curriculum?
I think that the only way to truly reintroduce the arts to curriculum is to start right off the bat. I think people would be a lot more interested in the arts if in elementary schools their classes put on plays, or as they got older had a choice of different types of arts, but had to have at least one a year.
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