A couple weeks ago, I read an article in which I knew much of the information was wrong. Sure, the article touted the positive effects of arts in education, lauded some interesting and effective arts in education efforts, and asserted the importance of arts in education, but the core facts were just wrong. The data presented was misleading and, overall, the piece felt like a bit of a blanket “arts are good” article. I “cyber-boycotted” and did not share the article. Then I saw many friends and colleagues excitedly sharing and praising the article for its assertion that “arts in education is good,” and I wondered if our proliferation of the message “arts in education is good” is actually hurting our case for quality arts in education.
Are we “post-happy?” I love twitter and am usually quick to post articles and quotes about the benefits of arts in education, but recently I started to worry, “Is our blind posting of arts-ed-positive pieces actually delegitimizing our field?” What is effective advocacy? When Radhika Rao wrote about the “Are the arts relevant?” question and how we need to stop indulging people in the discussion of “Are they?,” I began to criticize myself for not having enough confidence in the value of our work to question the articles I was posting. I am so overcome by the need to prove our relevance, so quick to react to those who pose the “Are the arts relevant?” question, that I proliferate arguments and articles that don’t really live up to my standards and don’t match my beliefs.
As Radhika Rao points out in her post, shouldn’t we believe the arts are beneficial and stop challenging people to ask the question, “Are they?” Does the education field as a whole post articles with the breaking news, “Education is good! Education results in positive effects on children!” and other messages of enthusiasm for the field overall? We have come to accept that education overall is good for our children. Can we accept that arts in education is good and move on to more nuanced and interesting press about our field?
I find profiles of best practice helpful and feel-good pieces fun to read, but when the main message is “arts are good for our children,” the sarcastic “Really?!?!” alert goes off. When I see an article that delves deeper into our work, shares accurate and exciting data on the arts and learning, and communicates the importance of arts in education through its careful, thoughtful discussion of accomplishments AND challenges, then I get excited.
I resolve to be more discerning in my promotion of arts in education in the media. I resolve to trust in my belief that arts in education is good and that our society truly believes it is good. Yes, we are up against budget cuts, shifting national priorities, competition for time and energy of educators, and other challenges that necessitate fighting for our place in lives of children and their schools, but I resolve to move beyond the basic arguments and hope for something a little more interesting. I resolve to question, because questioning gives Arts in Education the legitimacy it deserves. Do you?