Saturday, March 28, 2009
"The arts are not pretty bulletin boards.
They are not turkeys and bunny rabbits.
They are not frivolous entertainment.
The arts are our humanity.
They are the languages of civilization through which we express our fears, our anxieties, our hungers, our struggles, our hopes.
They are systems of meaning that have real and important utility, which is why schools that give students the means and encouragement to explore these realms provide a better education."
Over at Pharyngula, PZ Myers tells a frightening story. He's right that our educational foundation is being eroded, and it's happening at the high school and elementary level as well. He's concerned about loss of science education, but I'm concerned about losing arts education.
In the school district where I work, one of our Arts administrators was just cut and must now teach full time. That means no advocate for visual arts, no concerted effort to normalize curriculum, and even less funds for advocacy than before. Many of the districts around are in a hiring freeze. If anyone leaves my school, they will not be replaced unless someone within the district can be found.
In the district where I used to teach, they are cutting HALF of the elementary art teachers so that each teacher at elementary level now has to travel between two schools. That means 1200 students instead of 600, and each student would now receive 1 hour of visual art every two weeks instead of 1 hour every week. That district had only recently allotted each school a whole teacher.
One of Mr. Myers commenters, in rightly being concerned about the loss of science classes, advocates putting arts classes on the chopping block instead.
Commenter ZK says: "What does "Liberal Arts" mean? It sounds like something that could do with cutting, rather than geology. . . [universities] persist in "teaching" stupid subjects that only exist so that thick/lazy/disinterested kids can get a degree. . . " and then calls liberal arts, or to be fair parts of it, "meaningless twaddle."
And commenter Justin says: "Liberal arts? Get rid of some absurd department/course like "Women's studies" or "Urban Studies". Any decent social studies program should include thorough coverage of women and urban people, but to make seperate (sic) degrees out of them is simply bizarre."*
I don't see why this should be an either/or situation. NONE of these things should be cut, and education institutions across the country, colleges and public elementary/high schools are experiencing cuts. And Governor (P)Rick Perry has apparently said that he will reject at least some of the stimulus money in unemployment benefits, so who knows who else he'll throw under the bus. I live in a state filled with idiots, and it makes me sad. **
*Unfortunately the conversation gets derailed by someone named Erasmus who ridicules all the liberal arts and can only see merits in "hard sciences" but doesn't apply the same rigorous attention to detail in his own comments and citations as you might expect from a scientist.
**Not least because the Texas Legislature is still debating about whether or not to include creationism in the science curriculum.