Monday, February 20, 2012

Lois Hetland Considers the Current Climate for Arts Education

What are some of the common trends that you see developing as you visit diverse learning environments across the country?

Upside: Dedicated, courageous, curious teachers, administrators, and kids; kids benefiting from arts learning by becoming autonomous, self-reflective, complex, flexible, self-motivated thinkers; low-achieving students engaging deeply and developing appreciation of and skill in thinking and language through art experiences; increasing connections of arts curricula to contemporary art practice and less to “surface” or “trivial” art activities; more out-of-school art programs in communities and museums; people willing to stay dedicated in the face of overwhelming obstacles; local funders and wealthy individuals recognizing the value of the arts and supporting them financially; continued federal funds for arts research; more critical friends and action research in schools; teachers eager to improve and find ways to be more effective

Downside: teacher, parent, child, and administrator frustration with and exhaustion from lack of support, lack of professional community, and lack of connections to their field as artists and art educators; fear and anger at the threat of programs being extinguished; fear and anger at the threat of having to choose between artist-teachers and teaching artists as a cost-saving issue; fear and anger at inadequate art supplies, technological access and training, teaching schedules, class sizes; teachers feeling despair, devalued, misunderstood; lower-income kids getting less arts and turning away (being turned away) from school success; misapplication and misunderstanding of research paradigms, data collection, research design (mono-method paper and pencil high-stakes testing, teaching to the test, ignoring education of the person)

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