March 2017 Archives

I told my students I had assessed their prowess as musicians, and tried to divide the groups evenly, so nobody would be in the "top" band--or left behind. Our job was to play well all the time, to live up to our potential as performers--not to be better than the other band. It took a while, but this policy eventually led to greater achievement, especially from students who did not start out at the top of the skills spectrum.


"Hillbilly Elegy" is impressive personal narrative--plaudits to Vance for his persistence--but hardly illustrative of poor habits and prospects of an entire region of the country. Nor does it illuminate any of the very real problems--crises, per the book's title-- facing working-class families in America today, beginning with the dangerous income gap between the haves and the have-nots that threatens the social order.


I am fortunate; I get to spend time in a range of public schools, as observer, presenter, consultant and, on occasion, substitute teacher. I know that the plural of anecdote is not data--but there are hundreds of thousands of vital examples of what needs highlighting and replicating in public education. Why aren't we focused, like a laser, on those?


For arts teachers, this is the ongoing, contentious, core issue in their pedagogical practice: What is the value of what I do? How do I share my conviction that the arts are essential in the lives of children? Why does artistic expression typically carry less weight than other fields and specialties?


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