Arts Education is a Political Issue

Posted by John Abodeely, Jul 16, 2009 0 comments

Arts education is as political an issue as an educational one. One could say that education itself is a political issue. After all, education and arts education decisions are made by thousands of adults each day--adults that do not see the faces of hear the voices of the children about whom these adults are making decisions. This is true of arts education too.

Federal legislators, federal employees such as USDE staff, and the president and his administration, all have specific impact on arts education. This is evident in the passage of No Child Left Behind.

State legislators, state department of education employees, state public university systems, state teacher unions, and statewide nonprofits have dramatic impact on arts education in the classroom. For example, state university systems that require one or two years of arts instruction as an entrance requirement often result in statewide arts education for high school students. Similarly, the state legislature may mandate a one or two year arts education graduation requirement for high schoolers. These policy actions put the arts firmly back in the schools (though not always as intended, I admit).

Program profiles on state and local efforts, as well as more info on arts ed as a political issue after the jump.

At the school district level, school board members, superintendents, assistant superintendents, directors of instruction, district teacher unions, and others can make great strides in putting arts education back in the lives of children. For example, Arts for All in Los Angeles, CA, has been supporting school boards in adopting formal policies that mandate arts instruction throughout the district. (They also do a million other impressive things to create sustained, systemic, and sequential arts education for LA's 7 million school-aged children.)

Finally, the principal can have huge impact on teh health of the arts in a school. Looking at Arts Ed Washington's Principal Leaderhip Institute, we see great strides in school-wide buy in, delivery, support, and planning for arts education.

These two programs and the thousands of others should be commended for recognizing and responding to the fact that adults are making decisions that enable or disable arts education in the classroom.

Other important players include the statewide Alliances for Arts Education. Many of these organizations work on statewide policy for arts education, mobilizing advocates, hosting advocacy days in state capitols, and partnering with statewide PTA's, teacher unions, and others. Members of Americans for the Arts own State Arts Action Network also carry the torch for arts education policy and advocacy. Through Americans for the Arts, these members leverage a brilliant software that allows arts education supporters to communicate with legislators in mere seconds.

Many of these organizations have the sometimes thankless, sometimes hard-to-fund work that isn't too compelling. They do not work directly with children. They are not working with an underserved group of people, which many foundations require.

So I'll dedicate this tiny blog post to them. Good work, guys! Keep it up! You've got all the support I can muster! Get in touch if I can help!

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