Friday, January 22, 2010

Bigger Picture

Bigger Picture

If you want a clue about what people value, look at how they spend money. If our governmental systems spend the majority of our tax dollars on education, and those systems pay lip service to the arts, what does it say to the community at large about the value of the arts to our society and in specific, our communities? Wouldn’t you expect the “arts are nice but not essential” policy of school systems to affect our arts organizations and artists?

If our government leaders talk about dropout rates and we know that the arts keep kids in schools, isn’t it logical to legislate funding and policy to effective programs? In a Guilford County study in 2001, 33 students involved in athletics dropped out of school. 5 students involved in performing arts dropped out of school. That year, Guilford County had a total of 974 students leave school before graduation.

If students who are heavily involved in arts have demonstrated greater accomplishments in school than their non-arts peers, can we expect the Governor’s new emphasis on achievement to incorporate significant arts education policy and support?

If we just celebrated King Day and maybe even got a day off of work, could we frame arts education advocacy as our opportunity to achieve social justice? Affluent systems have arts education programs, albeit ones extremely vulnerable because North Carolina does not have a comprehensive arts education policy. But even if our major systems continue to eliminate arts positions and programs, the “haves” will make sure their children get those private dance lessons. Where does that leave the rest of the population who do not have means or opportunity?

Public education is our democratic playing field. Either we believe the arts are inherently our right and are essential to education, community, and development as human beings, or we don’t. Where do you fall on the question and what are you willing to do about it?

Karen Wells
ARTS North Carolina

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