Sunday, April 27, 2008

For art's sake (not because it makes them better at math)...

I was so happy to read Ann Hulbert's piece in today's New York Times Sunday Magazine, entitled "Drawing Lessons."

For several years, at the Laguna Playhouse, I cast my lot with those who argued that arts education should be advocated on the basis of proven studies of improved test scores and performance by schoolchildren. In the hostile climate for the arts (and funding for the arts) that emerged during the Reagan administration and "trickled down" to state and local government as well as corporate funding, it seemed like we were mounting a last stand to fend off the barbarians.

But that rationale turned out to be a specious one, according to Hulbert's article today, and frankly, I'm relieved to know that. I never took pleasure in justifying support for arts education because it could make a kid a whiz at math. And I bemoaned the lack of courage and honesty--not to mention, ("hello!") actual belief in the intrinsic value of the arts--that led our field to abandon forceful, convincing arguments for what we do in favor of suggesting that art is only of value when it teaches us to do other things well. (It's the same way that many organizations "follow the funding" when making strategic programming decisions, creating new programs to qualify for grants and straying from their institutional mission to do so.)

I'm perfectly comfortable in believing that some students who receive exposure to the arts in school may benefit by gaining an early appreciation for the arts, but I'm hopeful that we can now lay to rest the strategy of advocating our cause on such a flawed basis.

Until next time...


No comments: