Arts groups urge strong, sequential arts education

``Raising cultural literacy among the next generation'' is ``an idea that's been on a lot of people's minds,'' according to Richard Bell, national program director of Young Audiences, a New York based group that books artists in schools. As a result, after two decades of periodic interfield rifts and sporadic setbacks, some 30 national arts education organizations and arts teachers' groups have united to issue a statement on the need for strong, sequential arts education throughout American schooling. The groups, prompted by the American Council on the Arts in New York and the Music Educators National Conference in Reston, Virginia, with the blessing of the National Endowment for the Arts, gave their final approval this month to a call for action first drafted in Philadelphia late last summer.

The document stresses that specific initiatives are best accomplished at the local level, at the discretion of local arts groups working alongside local educators.

Among the statement's provisions are that:

``The arts should be taught as disciplines to all K-12 students. This includes student involvement in making art, studying art, and experiencing art.''

``Instruction in the various arts must be regular and basic parts of the curricula in all elementary and secondary schools. Services provided by artists are central to the curricula including performances, lecture-demonstrations, workshops, residencies, and field trips to performances and fine arts institutions.''

``Educating students in the arts requires repeated exposure to the highest quality arts experiences both in school and in the concert hall/museum. Such experiences must be integrated with sequential instruction as part of comprehensive curricula.''

``Curriculum-based arts education requires that full-time teachers with high levels of artistic skills work with artists who have developed exceptional educational abilities.''

Dr. John McLaughlin, head of arts education at the American Council of the Arts in New York and one of those chiefly responsible for the resolution, suggests that the new determination comes in response to several factors.

First, national reports such as Ernest Boyer's book on behalf of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (``High School''), ``A Place Called School,'' by John Goodlad, and the US Department of Education's ``What Works'' recommend that a child learn the arts in depth as part of a good education.

National education entities and state education departments have amplified the theme, says McLaughlin. But, he continues, ``Many local school districts do not realize the need.'' Significant budget cuts in local arts education have taken place during the past four or five years, in particular slighting the areas of drama and dance, he says.

In Mr. Bell's view, an ideal local reaction to the national statement would be a cooperative effort by local artists, arts advocates, and art teachers to bring the message to school boards and district administrators. An appropriate local approach can then be developed.

Copies of the statement may be obtained by writing to Dr. John McLaughlin in care of ACA, 1285 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10019.

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