If you are one of the many fine arts teachers trying to convince your colleagues of the importance of your curriculum vs. “core academics”, we would love to introduce you (and them) to Sir Ken Robinson and his explosive (and entertaining) contribution to the critical nature of creativity, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”. In my own practice, to my amazement, I still find the attitude that the fine and performing arts are merely an add-on to the “real” curriculum. As one math department chair said to me two years ago: “in choir, they just sing!”  If you have more stamina, watch him deliver the Cohan Lecture from 2016 where he gives his personal answer to the question What Matters? But he’s not alone. Another amazing educational leader is Dr. Yong Zhao. Try his take on creativity and entrepreneurialism or his book World Class Learners . It is critical that we as teachers have the resources and the background to promote the arts, and work in our schools to make them an assumed part of every great education.

Empower takes the position that the fine and performing arts are no longer an “optional” part of learning. The specific ways in which these disciplines approach and develop creativity are key to many 21st century jobs. They are equally key to human development and the ways in which humans gain and give pleasure. But the institutional blocks to allowing students to access the arts are enormous and until we change those blocks, all our excitement about creativity is just lip service. This is true in both public and private schools. Here is Texas: Students must complete 22 credits to get a high school diploma, including four credits in English, three credits in math, science and social studies, two credits in a language other than English or computer science, and one credit in fine arts, speech and physical education.

This is pretty much the same in any private school as well. Many students tell of their frustration that they cannot take Honors Choir or Advanced Art because it doesn’t fit into their requirements, even though those requirements do not meet their own educational and personal goals!

We have not even entered the battle till the number of arts credits required is the same as the number of humanities, math, and science credits. More on that next month!