Thoughts from Eric EngdahlPosted: April 20, 2012
Comment: This is about equity and access. Certainly access is a theme given the minor but time consuming irritations of getting on the blog; equity and access are also themes because I am mourning the death yesterday of a young man of color from Oakland whom I knew well.
I noted earlier that the Alliance seems to consist primarily of white women. But there are other lacunae we need to be aware of as we plan for the next ten years. We need to include people and bureaucracies in the educational system who are not part of the choir – people who may not even know there is a choir. We need to have representation from elementary, middle and secondary teachers – arts teachers and non-arts teachers. We definitely need administrators and school site leaders. We need to reach out to schools not making AYP. We also need the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and the accreditation agencies for schools and teacher education programs. We need the professional organizations in music, dance, theater and visual art and of course we need parents and students. We need to involve communities of faith. Perhaps we can start to involve them as we become more specific about the student outcomes we will craft. What is the outcome of every child having art every day? Sounds good but what does it mean, what will the child be able to know and do by 12th grade and how will the child know? I don’t refer to standardized tests. We need to look at creativity indices and we need to look at some of the quality of life metrics found in longitudinal studies – we need data, as we know. I am also tired of the arts content/academic content divide. We need to get that out of the discussion. Additionally, we need to make the case more strongly how the arts make teachers more effective.
Most importantly, we need to aggressively reach out to the economically disadvantaged and people of color – those people whose lives and education can most affected by the arts and who are least likely to receive it as part of their education. I suggest that we also need to think about where and on whom we should focus our resources. The ‘new normal’ means finite resources. Especially given the recent NEA report “The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth” I think we need to put a more overt focus on at-risk populations: students of color, students of low SES backgrounds. In ten years, will society be better off if more children enrolled in school have the arts everyday or will society be better off if through the arts we can increase the graduation rate by 4% of African-American and Latino males? A lot of data I have looked at suggests the former.
I am don’t think we should set limits but that we may want to focus and set a target for those populations who can benefit the most from the arts. We need to be aware if we are unwittingly excluding groups – if the Bay Area is called the new Florence couldn’t just as easily be a new Malian Empire, a new Byzantium, and new Gupta Empire?
I hope I am not ranting, too much. The young man whose death I referred to earlier was the son of a white American woman and an African father. He could have been the next Barack Obama. But the educational system did not do well by him. We can do better and the arts are integral to making that occur.