Too many schools still fail to offer a standards-based course of study in all four arts disciplines. We all know that unacceptable disparities in arts education between low-income and affluent districts continue to persist.
So, arts education is making real progress toward defining quality and demonstrating outcomes, but challenges remain. A number of states have taken steps to develop rigorous arts assessments. Unfortunately, those assessments have faced setbacks and funding cutbacks in recent years.
Despite these challenges, and the tough budgetary climate, arts education must not just survive but thrive. A well-balanced curriculum is simply too vital to our students and our national character to let the teaching of the arts and humanities erode.
But I urge arts educators to have the confidence of their convictions to compete and demonstrate the value of their disciplines on student outcomes.
I recognize that our plans to shift to competitive funding for arts education may make some arts providers nervous, even if they can potentially compete for significantly more funding than in the past. Change can be unsettling.
In fact, we anticipate that place-based Promise Neighborhood programs in low-income communities may include high-quality arts instruction. Research suggests that arts education not only boosts academic outcomes, but that neighborhood-based arts and cultural activities can build stronger cities and communities.
Two of our new and most innovative programs--Investing in Innovation or i3, and Promise Neighborhoods, loosely modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone's comprehensive community-based organization—have the potential to support effective arts education programs and partnerships as well.
We have proposed to take the $40 million for arts education that now goes to directed grants and a couple of small competitions with an array of applications and requirements, and replace it with a much bigger, competitive pool of $265 million to strengthen the teaching of arts, foreign languages, civics and government, and other subjects.
I don't think arts education should ever be relegated to taking place only in after-school hours. But arts educators can provide high-quality instruction in after-school and extended day programs that is especially critical for low-income students.
Now, what can the federal government do to support high-quality arts education and a well-rounded curriculum? Let me answer that question by telling you first what we cannot do. We will not endorse or sanction any specific curricula--and the Department is in fact appropriately prohibited by law from endorsing or sanctioning curricula.
Those claims are true. STEM courses develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills in math and science, they spur innovation, and they enhance self-direction. But as Daniel Pink, author of , has pointed out, good arts education accomplishes many of the same ends.
It's too bad that the idea of genius has been denigrated so far, because it actually offers a live alternative to the demoralizing culture of hip in which most of my students are mired. By embracing the works and lives of extraordinary people, you can adapt new ideals to revise those that came courtesy of your parents, your neighborhood, your clan -- or the tube. The aim of a good liberal-arts education was once, to adapt an observation by the scholar Walter Jackson Bate, to see that "we need not be the passive victims of what we deterministically call `circumstances' (social, cultural, or reductively psychological-personal), but that by linking ourselves through what Keats calls an 'immortal free-masonry' with the great we can become freer -- freer to be ourselves, to be what we most want and value."
Through CAPE, the Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education, we brought local artists and teachers into the schools to partner up on integrating arts curriculum with academic subjects. And follow-up studies showed that students at the CAPE schools performed better on standardized assessment than students who attended schools that did not integrate arts and academics.
Is it any surprise then to learn of the large impact that arts education has on student achievement and attainment, especially among disadvantaged students?