Arts education advocate and consultant Russell Granet spoke to members of the New Vic Council about arts education and New York’s schools (edited with permission).http://www.artsedresource.org/
New Vic Council Member (NVC): Have there been any studies done on other countries and education systems in other countries, and whether arts are more integrated? I know it’s hard to measure…
There is hope. A principal that I work with in the Bronx says, “I’m not a principal, I’m an activist.” I think we need to invest more in our principals, because at the end of the day, I do believe that it lives with the principal. If you have a strong principal, they can make anything happen. Over the years I have worked very closely with a few schools that were considered exemplary art schools. I asked one of the principals to give a talk to other principals about how she makes it work. She said, “Oh, I can’t tell them, because it’s a complete shell game. What I do is probably illegal. If I talk to principals it can’t be recorded, it can’t be taped, and no one from the DOE can be there, because I make it work under the radar.” That’s such a great indicator of what is wrong, because in order to succeed in the system you have to work against the system.
What’s wonderful about organizations like The New Victory is their ability to make a positive impact. Teachers, a lot of teachers will say to me, “If I wanted to be an art teacher, music teacher or theater teacher, I would have done that. Leave me alone. I want to be a classroom teacher.” There are three basic strands in the work we do in arts education. The first is arts integration, where we use an art form to teach a core academic subject area. The second is skills-based work, where you learn the skill of the art form. Then there is aesthetic education, where you give students the skills to understand and articulate the value of the arts. As educators we never know a child’s entry point. In arts education we’re addressing a different learning style – it may not be right for every student, but if we don’t try we are potentially losing out on educating thousands of students. The good news is that the cultural community has stepped up to the plate and has done quality work in the schools. I would argue there are four strands in arts education – the fourth: giving students the skills to think like an artist.