Director of Lincoln Center Institute, an arts and education organization
of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, I appreciate this opportunity
to invite, challenge and promote dialogue among the many readers,
print and web-based, around issues pertinent to everyone involved
in education—teachers, school leaders, artists, arts organizations,
parents, community members and policy makers of all ilks.
Many of us in
the world of the arts, especially those of us who live in both
the arts and education are trying to be more precise in exploring
and implementing how the arts relate to the entire curriculum.
Fortunately most people understand that the arts should be part
of the everyday school curriculum, evidenced by public opinion
studies (Gallup, Roper), which state that the general public (over
90%) wants the arts within public education. If dissent arises
it usually surfaces around questions of how the arts fit into
the already crowded (and growing increasingly more so with current
mandates) school day. Yet this discussion occurs within the reality
that most school districts either employ too few certified arts
educators or districts engage the expertise of arts organizations
on a “vendor” contract rather than on a “partnership” contract.
This distinction is important as a vendor can best be described
as someone who sells or peddles a product while a partnership
implies a relationship in which each party has equal status, a
certain independence and implicit obligation to the other. If
arts organizations were selling #2 pencils to schools this would
make sense but not when the relationship is curricular in design.
As noted by Dr. John Goodlad, these casual or vendor relationships
create an environment where “commitment and recommendations, like
virtue, are commendable but insufficient in themselves.”
To avoid that
insufficiency this discussion must lead us in to a non-vendor
way of partnering between school systems and arts organizations
and arts educators? The challenge to all educators and artists
is to value this part of the human experience as a significant
dimension of the learning process and to realize that what we
have in the arts is a potent force in the struggle to ensure that
the next generation will be able to function freely and inventively
in the imaginative domain. This way of working will establish
a different type of public-private relationship. It is my conviction
that only then can our discussion about how the arts fit into
a crowded curriculum, how they enhance learning, how they foster
our ideals about life, democracy, imagination be better understood
and implemented across the school day, across the curriculum,
across teaching and learning.#
Noppe-Brandon is the Executive Director of the Lincoln Center
Institute. He will be a regular contributor to Education Update.
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