Riding the Arts Education Roller Coaster

Posted by Marete Wester, Mar 04, 2011 2 comments

Marete Wester

Marete Wester

I don’t have a Twitter account. I’m not morally opposed to it, or taking an anti-technology political stance—I’m merely a social media “slow adapter.” Since it’s one of those things I know it will take me a while to learn, it’s not high on my priority “to do’s”—at least for now.

Which is why I’m always amazed when a colleague emailed me that I’ve been quoted on Twitter, as I was recently speaking on a panel at the Face to Face conference hosted by the Arts in Education Roundtable in New York City (Feb 22 & 23).

The Face to Face conference had several hundred attendees, with a significant number of first-timers. While many of the panels were thoughtfully focused on building skills and improving practice in delivering solid learning in the arts, others were targeted towards advocacy and making the case.

The comment that made the tweet was something I said as a member of the Arts Education Advocacy panel moderated by Doug Israel of the Center for Arts Education, featuring NYC Councilman Robert Jackson and NYS State Alliance for Arts Education Executive Director Jeremy Johannesen.

In response to a question about how we would describe the current environment for arts education from our respective vantage points at the local, state, and national level, I apparently said something tweet-able.

The exact tweet was “Marete Wester: Working in #artsed, you have to be a manic depressive optimist. #f2f2011”

What I meant by that is almost more reflective of more than 20 years spent, for the most part, advocating for arts and arts education issues.

The work has always been like a roller coaster of sorts—with steep plummets, slow-moving rises to the top, and then having your neck whipped around when a sudden turn leads you on a spiral to, well, apparently the next precipitous drop.

Unfortunately, the roller coaster seems to be the only mode of transportation currently available to try to get to point A from point B in arts education, no matter if you are working at the local, state, or national level.

I learned this in the first panel, since the political scenario in New York City as described by Councilman Jackson, a long-time devoted advocate for education and the arts (and a man who does know how to tweet!), and the dire budgetary situation at the state level detailed by Jeremy Johannesen, are nearly the same scenarios being played out in cities and towns across the country.

The fact that statement got a laugh and some nods—not to mention a tweet—on the first day’s panel, made me start thinking seriously about what might be different from making the case today, as opposed to 20, 10—or even 5 years ago.

What do you think is different about making a case for arts education today as compared with the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, or even 2008?

2 responses for Riding the Arts Education Roller Coaster


Jeanne Bjork says
March 04, 2011 at 10:26 am

I think social media could make a difference in the arts education debate. It's a ride worth getting on. I am a visual art teacher and I live in Wisconsin. We are fighting for our livelihoods here. It is intense work to be professional, go to work each day, protest and write those letters to our representatives by night and on weekends. Social Media has made a huge difference in this cause. There are groups on Facebook and Twitter that are tweeting and commenting every possible article, video and news item that pertains to this battle. Social media has enabled us to connect and organize a movement. Making a case for arts education is different because of social media. Social media is based on visual literacy, music and sound which is what we teach in the arts. 21st century citizens need to have basic skills and be visually literate. It should be the number one reason the arts lead the way and are embraced by schools, not cut and eliminated as is starting to happen in my home state.

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March 07, 2011 at 1:41 pm

I've been wondering when everyone (by "everyone" I mean the general public, school administrators, policy makers, etc.) is going to finally ask the question,

“What experiences do children need and what skills must they master to be effective workers, citizens, parents, friends, leaders and life-long learners in the 21st century?”

There have been a lot of answers to this question, and the answers are all so similar (take a look at the SCANS report from the U.S. Department of Labor, for example). The arts embrace so many of them, too. They address them head on! We somehow have to get that question asked and it has to be the foundational question of all that happens in education.

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