For those of us who’ve been involved with arts education for any length of time, we’ve seen many theories and practices arrive on the scene. All are well grounded, express a philosophy of teaching, and hopefully build upon the education foundations already laid since the late 19th Century and the rise of the Picture Study Movement. Today, over one hundred years later, Common Core’s focus on national standards is receiving much attention from educators, commentators, think tanks, and politicians.
What seems overlooked in this evolution is the tectonic change that’s occurred inside the classroom. Specifically, inside the arts classroom–or on the mobile cart that carries the arts into the “regular” classroom.
Much time, it seems, is spent studying arts education practices at the macro level. We in the field read, listen, talk, debate, and write consistently on how theory and practice impacts students. In my household, alternatively, we generally eschew theory and instead talk a lot about reality. Why is that? Because my wife is a visual arts teacher in a K-8th grade public school.
In her 27 years in the classroom, things have changed. Kids haven’t really changed all that much, but the atmosphere surrounding public education certainly has.
The challenges she faces in her job on the front lines of education have evolved significantly. At one time, she felt supported by her principals and school administrators, especially in areas like discipline. Today, the kids rule. Principals now consider the child’s side of a dispute more than the teacher who brought it to their attention. School board members bend sideways with any angry parental breeze. Imagine an eight-year-old lying through their teeth after being caught doing something wrong, in spite of plain evidence to the contrary, and having the principal castigate the teacher for not “truly understanding” the child’s behavior.