I've titled this blog post Trump because it contains braggadocio, gratuitous pandering, and an ominous message. Also, by mentioning Donald Trump and the musical, Hamilton, in the same post, it will get lots of readers!
Hamilton is one of the most brilliant musicals that Broadway has seen in a very long time. The hype over this show is merited I'm not just saying that because I met the cast and they all love me. I state that because Lin-Manuel Miranda can look at this this guy and think, "yeah, I see myself here!" But, that is because he was paying attention to Hamilton's story.
At its core, the human experience is about connection and storytelling. Those stories manifest themselves in a myriad of ways—written word, spoken word, media, vocal and instrumental expression, and movement. Whether on canvas, on film, or onstage, we actively seek out these various forms to offer context within our own lives.
For a very long time, the great minds who defined great ART mostly consisted of European men (or men of European descent). With few exceptions, Literature, Art, Music, Dance, and Theatre was viewed through those lenses. In his blog post Doug Borwick states that "Whiteness is the dominant ideological framework that exists in the cultural sector. It is the default frame that defines cultural value and worth; it is used (mostly unconsciously) to analyze, classify and quantify both what is understood as the norm and the notions of “other”–of diversity
I believe that there is a pathway to achieving an arts environment that is a more representative reflection of our population. However, it will require a redirection of our educational system as well as an adjustment in our thinking as a society.
As a society, we must:
- Allow for more perspectives within the intelligentsia to help define what Art is, what is quality, and what is of lasting quantitative value.
- Make room in our own perspective for someone else's perspective.
- Continue to teach the classics and the understanding of why they have staying power.
- Have more diversity in positions of decision making authority- people with the ability to green light new plays, films, television shows, art exhibits, and performance pieces. Stamford University has a brilliant program and I hope more schools can follow suit.
- Elect public officials who appreciate the value of the Arts and are therefore willing to expand and support (through funding, not just words) Arts education, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for Humanities.
- Make an equitable and quality Arts education a priority for all students.
- Support local artists and artistic endeavors both through attendance and fiscal giving.
As educators we must:
- Identify and recruit students to become involved in our Arts programs- the number of young performers on Broadway who fell in love with performing from a simple invitation is staggering!
- Choose works that have offer diverse perspectives. The argument of, "I don't have the kids to do this" is not good enough—refer to #1
- Here is a picture of an adorable puppy and kitten... In case this is getting boring!
- Provide a platform for student created new works. While I am not always a fan of students' original work, I recognize that without it, how else do we cultivate the newest Lin-Manuel Miranda.
- Give HONEST feedback... I have so much to say about that, it could be a separate blog post!
- Read more...a lot more. Read more plays, read more articles, read more books. Become an encyclopedia for your students, colleagues, parents, and administrators.
- Most of all, stand up for yourself and your program.
While science, math, technology, and engineering may be the intelligence of an education, the Arts provide emotional aspect. We need to know that intellect without emotion is a psychopath. [Cue ominous music] We simply CANNOT allow our young people to have a psychopathic education. With the steps outlined above, it is possible for Hamilton to become the new normal. Its message is not of "otherness" but universality within the human spirit.