Thursday, November 12, 2009

That was our first mistake.

When educators first separated the idea of the arts from science, social studies, history, math, language, literature, humanities, philosophy, and every other conceivable discipline, the arts then became the backwater of education, pushed into a corner, and isolated from what were thought to be the more important disciplines.


Now some say, "arts for art's sake" for surely there are some very important human, cultural qualities that arise when pen is put to paper for reasons other than numbers and letters. And surely letters and numbers themselves are made more potent, more meaningful when carefully drawn by attentive hand. But what if the arts were subservient to the other areas of human cultural and intellectual expression? Would the arts be diminished by reinforcing a child's education in physics, mathematics, history or literature? Or are the arts large enough to be drawn upon without limit? You might as well ask, "why is there air?" For air is what the arts are to every form of human cultural expression.

There is a Chinese saying that if you would lead you must first serve. And so, serve the arts must. They will crawl from the backwaters of education to reinvigorate the studies in all fields by first asserting themselves by serving and becoming essential.

I had my first meeting today with a former dean at the U of A to explore my possible return to school. It was an honest and helpful meeting. And one of the questions was "are there staff here that would provide a match to my needs?" I want to thank all those who helped me think this through at my earliest considerations. You gave me a lot to think about and I am not ready to sign up, but rather have still more people to talk to at the U of A.

I was sorry to learn today that A+ schools, a program transplanted from North Carolina for implementation in Arkansas to integrate arts throughout the elementary school curriculum was eliminated in the state of Arkansas. It was a hard sell and the program directors realized that the only way school administrators would support the arts was if they were provided financial inducements to do so. So as some of my blog readers have noted, it will take a fundamental shift in how we think of the arts to force schools to make a change.

And so, I remain on the fence. To school or not to school? That is the question. And perhaps the greatest tool in my possession is the poetry of what you so carefully place on keyboards, or store safely in pockets, or wave excitedly when you engage in conversation. The poetry of your own hands at work, shaping the future, and providing hands-on learning opportunities for those you love, is a far greater force than the letters earned that adorn the tail end of a person's name. And so, lacking credentials, I resort to the poetry of human language and form.

Make, plant, cook, create, shape wood, make stitches, harvest, share with your children. The world with the greatest meaning is one made not by financial agents, but by poets, musicians, artists, and woodworkers. Speaking of which, I received my annual copy of Woodwork magazine in the mail today and the accompanying CD contains my article on Making Desk Cubbies and Secret Boxes. You can find copies at Barnes and Noble, Borders and other stores where magazines are sold.


  1. Doug,

    The A+ Schools program is/was housed at my institution. Sadly, it was a victim of our 10% budget cuts imposed by the state of North Carolina. It is sad to be sure.


  2. Millions of dollars were invested in A+ schools by private foundations. What a disappointment. I was hoping the program was at least still alive and well in North Carolina.

    Arts touch everything, but most people don't get it. Isn't that a sad state of affairs?

  3. Anonymous4:57 AM

    Ah, to go or not go to school. It's a tough call, since without someone there who can help you get to that next level, it would be frustrating and unproductive. I was at a similar place a few years back, and ended up deciding that it wasn't the right time or the right program.