Inside the Arts blogger Bill Eddins came up with the idea for all of our network’s bloggers to write a “Dear President Obama” letter, and I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of what exactly I’d want to ask President Obama.
I’m an arts blogger, after all, and though I love the arts and want to see them grow and prosper under our new administration, I can’t help but think that funding for the arts is fairly low on the totem pole of national priorities. I see the arts as a fundamental part of the human experience, but I also believe in the structure of priorities that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides. With thousands (or even millions as the economic climate worsens) unemployed, the nation’s health care system in pitiful shape, and the financial structure of our country severely derailed, where does funding for the arts fit into the national agenda?
I just can’t make a plea for more governmental arts funding. It doesn’t make sense right now. Of course the arts are important. But orchestras and other arts organizations need to set their own financial houses in order. If your orchestra goes belly-up in the next year or two, perhaps having a full-time orchestra in that community is not a financially viable model. A substantial portion of my book Road Warrior Without an Expense Account is devoted to the long-term economic unfeasibility of the symphony orchestra as a full-time organization. While I feel for my symphonic colleagues being affected by the recession (and many more symphonic musicians are likely to feel the brunt of this economic climate in the coming year), having the government increase orchestral funding just doesn’t seem like a good priority to me.
Eliminate ‘No Child Left Behind’
I see the arts as something deeper, something that must be cultivated in our nation’s youth, that must be a part for every student’s day from preschool through college and beyond. My request to President Obama, therefore, is to take a good look at education and tear down No Child Left Behind.
This piece of legislation is one of the most wrongheaded in recent memory, emphasizing skill-and-drill test-oriented teaching with little interest in actual learning. By rewarding the wrong priorities, this legislation ensures that there is even less music, art, drama, and technological creativity.
Countless articles have been written lambasting this legislation–any Google search will turn up numerous examples. One especially well-written article on the topic comes from Alex Tehrani and was published in the May 24, 2007 edition of Time Magazine:
NCLB takes the Federal Government–which contributes only 9¢ of every $1 spent on U.S. schools–where it’s never gone before: telling the states how to measure school success, specifying interventions for failure, mandating qualifications for teachers and even telling the nation how to teach reading. This year, as the five-year-old law comes up for debate, an unforgiving spotlight will be focused on its impact thus far, including its numerous unintended consequences. Many teachers are enraged by the law’s reliance on high-stakes exams that lead schools like Blaine to focus relentlessly on boosting scores rather than pursuing a broader vision of education. More than 30,000 educators and concerned citizens have signed an online petition calling for the repeal of the 1,100-page statute. Some offer comments like this one from a former superintendent of schools in Ohio: “NCLB is like a Russian novel. That’s because it’s long, it’s complicated, and in the end, everybody gets killed.”
Read the complete article here.