Saturday, May 19, 2012

turnaround for the arts...

What should be no surprise at all to those who engage the world hands-on, the arts have a tremendous part to play in American education. The President's Turnaround Arts Initiative recognizes this role. They tell that participation in the arts leads to better attendance, and better academic performance.

In the early days of the manual arts in American schools, some argued that manual arts instruction would take too much time away from academic instruction, but advocates noted that when real work was thrown into the school curriculum mix, students learned reading, math and core materials more quickly because of increased relevance in the children's own lives.

Some of the points made by the Turnaround Arts Initiative are as follows:
  • College-bound seniors who studied music in school scored 57 points higher on the verbal SATs and 41 points higher on the math SATs.
  • At-risk students cite their participation in the arts as a reason for staying in school.
  • Arts education deters delinquency and truancy and increases academic performance in at-risk youth.
  • College-bound seniors who studied music in school scored 57 points higher on the verbal SATs and 41 points higher on the math SATs.
  • Students in the highest poverty elementary schools are 50% less likely to have arts or music classes.
  • Drama and dance in elementary schools has declined 80% in the last 10 years.
  • Low-income band and orchestra students outscored others on the NELS math assessment.
At some point, I hope that educators begin to understand the role of the hands in learning. When you understand the direct relationship between the hand and mind in learning, the rationale for the arts (including wood shop) becomes perfectly clear.

Last night's White Street Walk set a record for attendance. With free food and drink and perfect weather, huge crowds of people turned out to admire art + eat, drink, and socialize. My own display at Lux weaving Studio is shown below.

I cannot think about Facebook's IPO yesterday without some sense of regret that our culture has gotten to the point of placing so much inflated value in such temporal/virtual rather than substantive things. The world has become a place for our idle amusement, rather than a place in which we are of real service to each other. A company assembled by a bunch of college students becomes worth billions while those whose work is less dependent on the wonders of technology are virtually ignored. At last night's White Street Walk, I was set up across from the meat tray provided by Bubba's Barbecue. I was witness to folks being torn between two real appetites, hand and eye on the one hand as some grew excited about my work, and hand to mouth on the other. Facebook in real life provides neither. In fact, "social" networking is being shown to have significant anti-social consequences.

Something of real greater interest than Facebook, but less likely to make money is revealed in this TED Talk, about making open source farm machinery. Marcin Jakubowski had noted "I finished my 20s with a PhD in fusion energy, and I discovered I was useless. I had no practical skills.” He then proceeded to actually do something about it. He turned his hand to farming, and that failure led him to address real societal change.

Make, fix and create...

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