Everyone who knows me and has read anything in this blog knows that I believe the arts are as important as any other core academic subject. There are federal initiatives for support, such as the President’s Council on the Arts and Humanities recent turnaround initiative for the arts in selected schools. There are eight schools from all around the US selected for grant funding. I am very excited about this initiative, so I began to think about it. It is a start, yes a start, but think of how many schools still struggle for funds to have the arts? We must get local artists and organizations involved as advocates and mentors to effectively have the arts for all. Even if there were not huge budget cuts, involving the local communities is the way to go. Other disciplines are the same. To effectively implement STEM into math and science programs, local engineering companies, scientists, engineers, and universities must be involved. Schools need the mentors to be a part of the school environment daily, weekly, not once a year. A workshop here and there for kids or an arts festival inspiring creativity once a year is okay, but it will not affect change. Students need regular and consistent learning. These subjects must be entwined in what they do daily. I am again professing that in which I have a passion and want to see happen NOW.
I think it is obvious that a curriculum/assessment system that only focuses on the dispensation of knowledge for students to suck up and then regurgitate to measure achievement does not encourage creativity. With all the focus on the development of the right brain and inspiring creativity, it is hard to understand why and how schools are still using only this method, but they are. Actually most of them are. The schools that get the accolades are measured by a number of things, a large portion of which is scores on such tests. So we continually reward the memorizers and ignore the out of the box thinkers. I know this–living it!
So when and how is change coming? Will we put forth enough effort in the way material is presented to actually encourage critical thinking and problem solving skills using such methods as project based learning, experiential learning and inquiry based tasks and assessments? Or will we continue to nod and say we need these things, but continue to make the cut and dry assessments what counts?
I am all for accountability in everything. That is a needed life skill. BUT….children learn from what we do and actions speak louder than words. If the test counts rather than creative thought and exploration, what should students think? People are sick of the tests but schools and administration must focus on this type of accountability in the measured subjects. Funding and approval depend on it. In the non measured subjects, such as the arts, I fear anything goes. If education is truly going to “turnaround,” we need to address the material presented and what we want students to do with it. Students need to be the guardian of their own learning and teachers need to teach them through their interests. Then, we can measure if they know how to find information, to determine if it is reliable, and then how to use and apply it. And maybe, what new will you do with what you know?
Perhaps it is not that the education system is ineffective. We are getting what we ask for, however effective you think it is. Maybe it is our perspective and what we value that needs to be changed.
Paradigm shift. Speak up!