The Time is Right for Arts in Education
Education has always been and will always be a hot-button issue. Questions regarding local, state, and federal influence or control will always be debated, as will the curriculum: what and how students should be taught. It is difficult to imagine a time in the history of public education in the U. S. when the public debate over education has not been controversial, to put it mildly. Each era has had to deal with a unique blend of social, political, and economic realities that influenced its shaping of education. For us today, within this discussion, I can’t think of any element that has a greater role to play in education than the arts.
Let me highlight a few very positive facts that point in that direction.
The NYC Department of Education has just finished publishing its Blueprint for the Arts in dance and theater, rounding out its effort to develop curriculum guides in the four arts (blueprints in music and visual art were completed last year). This is good news for many reasons, not the least of which is the emphasis on the partnership between the DOE and the many cultural organizations in NYC.
The No Child Left Behind legislation requires that the arts be included as a core curriculum subject.
The Education Commission of the States, under the leadership of Arkansas Governor Huckabee has selected the role of the arts within education as its top priority.
The Arts Education Partnership (I sit on the Steering Committee) has long pushed for the arts to be a vital and relevant part of education of our nation’s youth and has brilliantly served to help refine what we think of as the workforce within the arts and education discussion.
Let us add to this the discussion on how instruction within and through the arts relates to the fulfillment of current educational issues, such as accountability, assessment, content knowledge, outcomes, crowded curriculum, funding, etc. (to name a few) and the topic acquires even greater urgency.
At Lincoln Center Institute, our conviction about the importance of the arts within education is witnessing some specific, most encouraging results. For the past two years, LCI has been preparing a long range plan for approval by the Institute’s Board of Directors. This plan calls for LCI to more than double in size programmatically and financially over the next five years. The plan is divided into three sections, namely 1) dramatically increasing the number of partnering schools and universities; 2) a major research and development plan; and 3) establishment of earned income opportunities. As LCI embarks on this expansion plan, we first and foremost will focus on our work within the NYC public schools. They have been our partner for 30 years and have served as the laboratory for the development of our educational model that has been replicated many times around the U. S. and the world.
All of this spells to me—and not just to Lincoln Center Institute, but all of us in the fields of arts education, arts-in-education, aesthetic education, and so on—extraordinary opportunity. I believe that it is today, right now and for the next three to five years, that we are presented with a moment in which to show how important the arts are within the greater debate on the course that education must take. Let us grasp that moment and use it to hone the key aspects of our educational philosophy and practice. We should be excited, not scared. Proud, not defensive. We should not tell ourselves, once again, that the time is not right. And we should not heap blame on the schools and the government before taking a good look at our own practices and the changes they may need. The time is right. The time is now.#
Scott Noppe-Brandon is the Executive Director of the Lincoln Center Institute.