A committed teacher writes for help in advocating for the field trips and visits from professional performers that our programs provide: “I am struggling to remove my emotional self from the conversation and stick to the educational value. Yet I fear that after all these years of selling the arts, I am a bit battle fatigued.”
With decades of experience and research behind us, we still struggle to justify robust arts education programs. Sandra Ruppert, Executive Director of the Arts Education Partnership, a national research and advocacy organization, cites “a ‘policy paradox’ of strong policies for the arts in education at the state level but weak implementation of those same policies at the school level. “ So often, I find that serious inclusion of arts is a grass roots phenomenon – the efforts of particular teachers, parents, and school leaders with strong convictions.
We live in a world of data, testing, standards – and failing schools. Schools are now being asked to reorganize around Common Core Standards. Arts educators see this as a positive development, since higher-level thinking skills embedded in Common Core dovetail so well with what we do. Yet, when I approached a group of teachers a few years back with an arts project designed to help implement Common Core, they pleaded with me to have the program as a break from standards, saying that they and their students needed a breath of air.
Our work in arts learning can and must be assessed in ways meaningful and convincing to educators and the larger community. But then there are the things that remain – ephemeral, elusive to easy capture – often just the qualities that make the arts a breath of air. As Albert Einstein once said “not everything that counts can be counted.”