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Schools Turnaround With The Arts

By Michael Buss, 2015-02-02

The Arts Council, in common with all the arts community, believes that the arts are of paramount importance in the neural development of the child brain. The benefits are huge. If all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, so does a curriculum crammed with math and ELA (English Language Arts - which is a complete misnomer) and no arts. 

A curriculum which addresses the whole brain, and hence the whole child, develops a whole character: the so-called “core” academic subjects all improve; the school becomes a more balanced and enjoyable place. Students can discover new ways of learning, and find talents that would not otherwise have found expression. As the years go by the arts contribute to reduced emotional trauma, less graffiti, fewer dropouts, better behavior, higher graduation rates and a stronger wage earning and tax paying workforce. This is all backed by extensive research and solid statistics. 

Where could money be better deployed than in crafting strong arts programs back into our schools - especially elementary schools?

Can you persuade wealthy businessmen to listen? There are some - yes. It’s true. There are very powerful and wealthy foundations whose whole mission is to support the arts in schools. But what about the rest? No! And why? Probably because investing in arts education shows no ROI - no return on investment for their business. Do they have the money to spare? Indeed they do. And come election time they will cumulatively pump millions of dollars into the campaigns for candidates whom they think will change the business climate to better suit themselves. And when the elections are over we all know most of that money went up in commercial television smoke!! 

What a waste. Consider how much more wisely could that same money be invested in arts education to the long term benefit of our kids and our national creativity and profitability.

And even more likely there are all too many people of political influence or money who simply do not get it. They are frankly insufficiently educated to know the benefits of arts in education.

And now to our horror we discover that our politicians in Washington are proposing yet more cuts in arts spending. The wisdom of arts education has not reached that level. These are the men and women who have the power to make spending decisions and laws that can build and bust our educational system. And for reasons that we are better not to speculate about they continue to castrate the arts.

Remember, our lawmakers are the ones who thought No Child Left Behind would be the panacea for all our educational ills. Everybody else had to fall in line, including school superintendents, school boards and administrators. But the teachers - those at the bottom of the pyramid when it comes to decision-making and yet who wield the most direct influence on the student population, knew NCLB could never work. They knew the math of the testing and school APIs did not add up. The knew that not all children can be above average. They knew exactly why some kids will never be good at English or Math. Sad but true. 

Where are the people who will stand up and say there has been damage enough! 

Some may say I am being political. But I’m not. I am not for or against any political party. I am not meddling in political matters. I am simply saying that leadership can get so remote from on-the-ground reality that they too easily make very bad decisions when it comes to investment in the arts. 

I have dealt in generalities. There is not space for academic discussion. That does not void the argument that the arts are essential in our schools, that leadership often makes poor decisions on what is best for our kids, and that people with money could put their money to better use than the promotion of public slanging matches. 

Michael Buss ~ January 30, 201



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