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Why Arts Matter

May 4, 2012

The state superintendent publishes a weekly newspaper article, which can be emailed directly to subscribers. Last week, she discussed the State Superintendent Awards for Arts Excellence which were won by 110 high school seniors from throughout the state. My blog post today isn’t going to explore the 36 schools from which these students came and the relative poverty that exists in each. While doing so might prove instructive, the words of the newsletter might prove even more so.

No one can argue with advising students to find “a life path filled with purpose” or that transforming Oklahoma into “a state of creative passion” is a worthy goal. We should all be so fortunate as to spend a life pursuing our passions. For many teachers, that involves spending time with students every day and helping them read one more story, learn one more math skill, sing one more song, translate one more story from a foreign language, or run one more lap. For many more, it involves working with populations of English Language Learners or students with special needs.

Fine Arts education is the epitome of discovery learning and the antithesis of the current education reform movement. You can’t measure passion and creativity on bubble tests. And you can’t measure teacher or school effectiveness with a piece of art.

While it’s important to know how well schools are doing in terms of student achievement, it’s refreshing that we haven’t entirely lost track of the heart and soul of children. Let’s hope that to some extent, teaching can remain an artform too.

On that note, next week is Teacher Appreciation Week. I’m going to personally show the teachers I know how important they are. And in this space, I’m going to explore topics that contrast what I know to be true about the teaching profession with the rhetoric being used by our biggest critics.

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