No Artist Left Behind

kid with viola

Last week Chris caught up with our neighbor, Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky. Pinsky was fresh from a fundraiser for The Boston Arts Academy, which is Boston’s only high school for the arts. As a hearty advocate for human expression, Pinsky told Chris that he profoundly admires the academy for sticking its neck out in an academic atmosphere where kids slog through a monotone curriculum of testing, testing, testing, and more testing.

During this hour, with Pinsky as our guide, we’ll be talking about arts education in America. Is eliminating the marching band the best way to keep kids moving forward? Is arts education a necessity that has become a luxury? Will this era of No Child Left Behind give rise to a generation of would-be Gershwins and Ginsbergs? Will we forever be dependent on writers and musicians like Dave Eggers and Flea to keep young artists afloat?

What was your arts education like? How does it differ from your child’s? What are the long-term consequences of short-changing kids’s culture?

 Robert Pinsky

US Poet Laureate, 1997 to 2000Professor, Boston UniversityAuthor of six books of poetry, among them: Jersey Rain and The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems. Just out: First Things to Hand from Sarabande Press.

And weekly literary columnist in Poet’s Choice in The Washington Post.

Abdi Ali

Humanities Teacher, Boston Arts Academy
Extra Credit Reading
Tim Grant, Arts education on endangered list across country, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 22, 2005: “As school administrators turn greater attention to the subjects that states are required to test under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, mathematics and reading are the main entree, while art and music are the delicious but fattening dessert they can do without.”Chava LeBarton, Bonkers for Kids Doing Visual Arts, Art Teacher, May 24, 2007: “The benefits of engaging our children in the arts, be it visual arts, theatre arts, music or dance, are well known. Art activities help kids develop their own self esteem, self reliance. And when children are discovering the world through art, they also enjoy self discovery. It’s universally true that everyone is different. When I was teaching the visual arts of drawing, painting, and animating, I saw children and adults develop faith in themselves.”Jenn Prewitt, jp Exposure | Jenn Prewitt, jp Exposure | Jenn Prewitt, February 10, 2007: “I used to think when I was younger that art teachers were just artists that never made it as artists. Now I believe that art teachers are artists that have NEVER given up! They still do their art work and still work in the arts and have NEVER given in to the majority of the world and gone corporate!!!”

Ponder Stibbons, Kivy on Music Education, The Truth Makes me Fret, June 1, 2007: “It’s not obvious to me why being a tool of social cohesion justifies music as something people should be acquainted with. Sporting competitions, too, are a tool of social cohesion: sports fans of all political stripes unite to support their national teams in international competitions. Yet we would hardly think that a knowledge of the most popular national sports is a necessary part of a great education.”

Walter Beasley, Boston Arts Academy, Walter Beasley’s MySpace Blog, May 1, 2007: “There are young people really trying to do the right thing, and I am just so thankful to be a part of the Boston Arts Academy. I lectured and performed today with and in front of young eager students. Man, if they are any indication of what the future holds, I really really look forward to it. Play and sing on! Congrats to the faculty and staff too; what a wonderful job you are doing. What a beautiful day.”

Rod Paige, Key Policy Letters Signed by the Education Secretary or Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Education, July, 2004: “As I travel the country, I often hear that arts education programs are endangered because of No Child Left Behind. This message was echoed in a recent series of teacher roundtables sponsored by the Department of Education. It is both disturbing and just plain wrong.”

J. David Santen Jr., Robert Pinsky laments arts loss, The Oregonian, March 26, 2007: “‘For thousands of years, education has included things like poetry and music as part of how you train people to be in the responsible, ruling class, the governing class,’ Pinsky said. ‘That chain goes back farther than anyone alive can remember, it goes back farther than any record. If we, in Forest Grove or anywhere else, say, “Well yes, that was nice, but now we have serious things like math, literacy and science to learn, we’re going to break the chain and do it differently — give kids laptops and teach them grammar,” woe to us.'”

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