The Kennedy Center has announced “Any Given Child,” a new program to support K-8 arts education. School systems nationally can apply to have Kennedy Center staff evaluate their resources and then come work with local organizations to develop a customized plan.
But the biggest obstacle to arts education isn’t resources; it’s tacitly low value placed on arts and humanities when (as we are wont to do) we discuss education in terms of economic productivity. This is a problem Mark Slouka articulated well in last month’s Harper’s:
We can explain, as Mike Huckabee does, that trimming back funding for the arts would be shortsighted because “experts and futurists warn that the future economy will be driven by the ‘creative class.’” We can cite “numerous studies” affirming that “a student schooled in music improves his or her SAT and ACT scores in math,” and that “creative students are better problem solvers . . . a trait the business world begs for in its workforce.” They’ll see we have some value after all. They’ll let us stay.
So perhaps the most heartening thing about the Kennedy Center announcement is how completely it avoids this type of cheerleading. From the Any Given Child site:
Too often a child’s arts education is intermittent and irregular. Unlike other subjects such as math—which is taught sequentially and is offered each year—music, dance, drama and visual art may be taught one year and not the next.
Or we could start teaching math more erratically, a solution that K-8 students could probably rally behind.
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