Welcome to From the Trenches, the blog of Quadrant Arts Education Research Founder Bob Morrison. Please pardon our appearance as we transition platforms. Be sure to sign up for our daily Quadrant Arts Education News Feed!
As the 2012/2013 school year comes to a close — as instruments are returned, music archived, graduation ceremonies conducted — and plans for the upcoming year begin to take shape this is always a good time of year to take stock — of where we are, the condition of our programs, our prospects for a new year and ways we may work to improve our programs as well as the environment where our programs exist.
It would be easy to look at all the negative headlines about budget cuts, teacher evaluations, and the general negative tone toward teachers we have all read over the year. However, to focus on these issues would be a mistake. That is because they are not the true measures of the condition of our field or where we are heading.
Instead, I prefer to look at what has been reported over the past 10 days as a more legitimate sign of the future of our field.
Here are some headlines and some backstory about them from just the past two weeks:
Ho Ho Ho Everybody!
Yes indeed it is that time of year. It is time to find out who has been naughty (and you know who you are!) and who has been nice, who will find a lump of coal in their stocking and who will find something a little more pleasant.
It is my Annual Holiday Gift List for Santa!
So, with the marching band season and the holiday chorus and band concerts behind you it is time to sit back relax and enjoy the parade of presents!
We have all heard the stories… teachers need to be held accountable for student growth. I suspect most people would not disagree with this statement.
Where there is plenty of debate and disagreement though is “how?”
For subjects like language arts and math where there are statewide assessments to measure student performance the task of tying student growth to teacher evaluation “may” be easier. Notice I said, “may.” That’s because just because something is possible does not mean it is the proper thing to do and there is plenty of debate about tying student test scores to teacher evaluations.
But here is the reality: tying teacher performance (ALL TEACHERS) to student achievement and student growth is a freight train rolling down the railroad track…. And it is heading down hill. The national movement tie teachers assessment to student outcomes will be the “new normal” for teachers across this country… including you… music and arts educators.
Which leads to the logical question… how will this be accomplished?
And the answer the profession has right now is… “We do not know!”
And this is the scariest statement of all.
Here is why:
Last March I wrote about the 20 year anniversary of the release of the landmark report “Growing Up Complete: The Imperative for Music Education” by the National Commission on Music Education - a partnership between NAMM (Larry Linkin, Karl Bruhn), NARAS: The Recording Academy (Mike Greene) and MENC/NAfME (John Mahlmann).
I noted how in March 1991, several hundred people from music education, the record business (yes they did sell records at one time), the music products industry and government leaders all gathered at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington DC to release this groundbreaking report to Congress and the Bush I administration. This was the culmination of two years of organizing of the broader music community against the threat of marginalization in our schools.
The Commission, with its work complete, was disbanded.
Immediately, a new group was formed out of this meeting to lead the national campaign and thus began the National Coalition for Music Education. MENC, NAMM, NARAS were joined by the American Music Conference (AMC) to lead the push to implement the recommendation from Growing Up Complete.
I noted in this article there was more to this story… the true story of how the arts actually came to be recognized as a core subject.
Today, borrowing a phrase from that historic commentator Paul Harvey, here is the rest of the story… and it is extraordinary…
The Back Story
In the summer of 1989 the “National Education Goals” were unveiled by the National Governors Association. The goals - released in Charlottesville, VA at a meeting chaired by then Governor of Arkansas Bill Clinton - stated:
Goal Three: “children will demonstrate competency in core subjects English, math, science, history and geography.”
Something Missing? Yep… no music… no arts!
Well this omission of music and the arts education from our nations educational agenda was the spark that brought together the partners of the National Commission for Music Education and ultimately the report Growing Up Complete followed by the formation of the National Coalition for Music Education in the March of 1991.
Later in 1991 President Bush announced America 2000- and again core subjects were listed as English, math, science, history and geography. Again, no music. No arts.
All requests to change goal 3 of America 2000 and include the arts were met with blunted replies of "No" from then President Bush (I), then Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander (who had served as Governor of Tennessee) and even head of the National Governors Associations Education Goals Panel Roy Romer among others.
The Comment Heard “Round the World”
And then, in a November of 1991 letter to MENC, Secretary of Education Alexander, the highest ranking education official in this country and himself a musician, called music and arts education...
He went on to write “if it were my community I would want to be sure that the school provided music and art.” These words would soon haunt him.
This provided the coalition partners with kind of proof that was needed to get people moving to fight for our music and arts programs. Calling arts education “extracurricular” was like waving a red cape in front of an angry bull.
For the previous 2-1/2 years the coalition battled for the arts inclusion and recognition as part of education reform. All suggestions and requests for change were constantly rebuffed. No matter how strong the case being made and no matter how influential the leaders bringing the issue forward on the community’s behalf.
But, in one ten daytime period - 20 years ago this month – because of the efforts of just a few people, everything changed.
The Bully Pulpit of One
Mike Greene, angered by the lack of progress with national leaders, took the stage at the Grammy Awards on Tuesday, February 25, 1992 and in front of 1.5 BILLION people and like a preacher at the pulpit launched the following salvo:
" ... America's creative environment affords all of its citizens the opportunity to create and appreciate music, and that begins with education. In the near future, you're going to be hearing a great deal about the government's plan for education. It's called AMERICA 2000.
It's a supposed educational blueprint for the next millennium. And guess what? Among the goals, the words 'art' and 'music' are not even mentioned one time. The very idea that you can educate young people in a meaningful way without music and art is simply absurd....If current trends persist, music will no longer be a universal entitlement, but one of the markers future historians point to as the beginning of a cultural caste system tied to personal and class economics....If a child has never been inspired by a poem, if a kid has never been moved to tears by a great symphonic work...why on earth should we believe that our future generations could even be bothered by the banning of records or the burning of books?"
Immediately following the show Secretary Alexander called a friend in Nashville’s music business and asked (sanitized for publication): “Who is Mike Green and what is his <<#@$$>> problem?”
The Maryville Two
On the Friday of the week following the Grammy Awards a concert had been scheduled to protest the lack of inclusion of the arts in the National Education Goals and the threatened cuts to the music program in Maryville, Blount County, Tennessee. The concert was organized by the choral director, Stacey Wilner and the art teacher, Carla Thomas with the support of the Tennessee Coalition for Music Education (an affiliate of the National Coalition). The second half of the concert would open with an empty stage to represent the loss of the music program. Country stars were sending in letters of support, Mike Greene had considered attending, and there were rumors and local newspaper stories about Garth Brooks (the hottest star at the time) attending the concert to support the protest.
Why was this so important? Because this is the home town of Lamar Alexander who said “if it were my community I would want to be sure that the school provided music and art.” Well, this was his community and he was about to be held accountable for his words. The Secretary became so obsessed with the potential for bad publicity in his home town he went so far as to have his public affairs officer contact a local newspaper and pose as a parent to see if Garth Brooks would be at the concert for fear of the additional negative media that would create. That’s right you read this correctly. And yes… this was AMAZING!
The combination of being called out on the Grammy’s telecast and the potential to be publicly embarrassed in his own hometown proved to be too much.
In an effort to head of the negative press, Secretary Alexander announced from a pay phone in an airport to an education reporter for the Tennessean Newspaper in Nashville Tennessee the creation of the "America 2000 Arts Partnership" just in time to be printed in the paper the day of the concert (March 6, 1992). Think about this. A major new education initiative for music and arts education for the country coming from the US Department of Education is announced to an education reporter in Nashville!
Which brings us to the main question: Did this decision have anything to do with....children? The answer unfortunately is no. It was all about politics and perceptions. This is a VERY important lesson that has driven the modern day arts education advocacy movement.
It would be three weeks before the formal details of the plan were released. When they were music and arts education were at least invited to the table: The America 2000 Arts Partnership. The plan spoke of National Standards for Arts Education but stopped short of embracing the arts as a core subject. It would take a change of administration and a new Secretary of Education to make this happen.
The New Administration Seals the Victory
With the change of administration after the 1992 election a new Secretary of Education, Richard Riley, entered the scene.
After being in office for less than one month - on February 23, 1993 (we know for a fact this was strategically released on the eve of the Grammy Awards), new US Secretary of Education released the following statement on the importance of Arts in education:
"As we work to improve the quality of education for all children, the arts must be recognized as a vital part of our effort. The arts--including music, theater, dance, and visual arts--are a unique medium for communicating what is common to all of us as human beings and what is special to each of us as creative individuals. The arts provide valuable opportunities for understanding our cultural heritage and that of all other civilizations. The arts also enhance our nation's economic competitiveness by developing creative problem-solving skills, imagination, self-discipline and attention to detail.
Emerging national education standards will, for the first time, provide a clear vision of the knowledge, skills, and concepts that all students need to learn through studying the arts.
Building on existing arts education partnerships, the Department will implement and support new education reform efforts which insure that the arts are an integral part of every child's education."
I guess he saw the Grammy Awards from the previous year!
The overwhelming response to this statement from music and arts educators, advocates, and supporters from across the country gave the Secretary the courage to then change the National Education Goals and add the Arts as a core subject to the new education legislation “Goals 2000.”
On March 31, 1994 the President signed Goals 2000 and now music and the arts are codified into federal law as a core subject. That same month the National Standards for Arts Education were released. Not long after new research studies would be published connecting music and arts education to all sorts of educational benefits.
Leading When It Matters
The battle the music and arts education community had waged for the inclusion of the arts as a core subject ended in victory largely due to that ten day time period in 1992. Between the Grammy Awards and the Maryville protest concert.
Mike Greene had nothing to gain by taking the Grammy stage on February 25, 1992 to deliver what is now the most important speech ever delivered on our behalf. Stacey Wilner and Carla Thomas had everything to lose, including their jobs, when they stood up against the system, against a sitting Secretary of Education, to fight for the rightful place of music and art in their school.
When the future of music and arts education hung in the balance these individuals DID something. They did not know at the time their actions would be responsible for sending music and arts education into a new and higher trajectory. They all DID stand up for what they believed regardless of the personal risk.
It is a lesson for us all.
As we look 20 years hence, it is clear the future of music and arts education in our nation will be determined by how individuals and groups work together RIGHT NOW to face the challenges of our time, not based on self interest or personal gain, but based on doing the right thing for our students regardless of the personal risk… just as Mike and Stacey and Carla did twenty years ago.
So when you come face to face with a new challenges or opportunities in your school or district to fight for music and arts education for your students, I have one simple question:
What will YOU do?
It has been a REALLY busy, harried, controversial, challenging year for everyone. And if you are like me I am sure all of you are ready for a well-deserved break.
But before mine starts I have one last task to complete…
My Annual Christmas Wish List for Santa!
Robert B. Morrison
New Jersey Arts Education Partnership
for the New Jersey State Board of Education
October 5, 2011
Good afternoon. My name is Bob Morrison. I serve as the chair of the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership – the statewide umbrella organization for the visual and performing arts. Our members represent all aspects of arts education in our state. Our members include the professional arts education associations in dance, music, theatre and visual arts, arts educators and the many cultural organizations whose programs provide both educational experiences for students and professional development opportunities for teachers.
I am here today to comment on the proposed changes to the NJQSAC District Performance Review (DPR) and the Statement of Assurance (SOA).
I often find myself in front of policy and decision makers discussing the status and condition of arts education in our schools. I have been in front of state boards of education, state legislatures, the Oval Office, the corner office, the principals office, school boards, congressional caucuses, senators and superintendents, principals and four Presidents of the United States.
Some times they are supporters of arts education. Sometimes they are not. Often times they would ask me “why” we teach arts education in our schools. The story I share with them ALWAYS provides a new awareness of the power of the arts to transform our students and our world. I am certain their view of arts education is dramatically changed.
The story I share uses the words of Steve Jobs and Jef Raskin. And on the day of the passing of Steve Jobs... it is only fitting I share this story with you.
Wow… where did the summer go? It feels like just yesterday school was wrapping up. Yet here we are facing the start of the new school year. New hopes. New dreams. New goals for you and your students. It means planning your programs, selecting your music, getting your lesson plans arranged, reviewing your student roster, instrumentation or vocal range and…
Planning your advocacy activities!!!
That’s right… planning your advocacy strategy and activities to promote your program.
“But Bob, I don’t have time to focus on advocacy” you may say.
Well if you do not care enough to plan how to advocate and promote your program… who will?
Yes… I know this can be time consuming… But fear not… here are some ideas to help you plan as well as some resources to help get the job done!
Today I opened a letter I have not read for nearly a decade. It was from Harold Decker, the president of the American Red Cross. It was a thank you note that accompanied a statue (called Motherland) he sent to me as a special gift. There is a story I have never told behind both the letter and the statue. The story began on 9/11. I decided it is finally time to write it down.
September 12, 2001
On Wednesday, September 12, 2001 I was at home. I got home about 1 AM in the morning following my 19 hours of adventure on 9/11 (which I have detailed in another post). I did not sleep well at all even though I was tired. There was just too much racing through my mind.
We were instructed to check our work voicemail for announcements and instructions from Viacom and MTV Networks (MTV Networks is a division of Viacom and VH1 where I worked was a division of MTV Networks). There was a message telling us the office would be closed Wednesday and to check back for updates. Fortunately, I had grabbed my laptop computer and tossed it into my brief case as we raced out of the building. (This was the famous brief case that created the bomb scare in Hoboken I have written about).
Being an executive with the company I had remote access to our systems so I could log in and check email and have access to files. This would be important.
I made some calls from my home office to check on my staff to be sure they all made it home OK. My boss, VH1 President John Sykes, was stuck in Denver following the Giants/Broncos game trying to get back to New York. I spoke with our head of communications John Kelley and others on our executive team to be sure everyone was OK.
As I sat at my desk I was feeling kind of helpless. Our nation had just suffered this huge tragedy. The many firefighters in the trucks we saw racing through Time Square on 9/11 never came back. The numbers of presumed dead where being reported in the 10,000 range. The images were horrible. So many people had suffered. So many people died trying to save others. So many people were trying to help. Everything was confusing.
Me? I felt like I could do nothing. How could I help? What could I do? I hated the feeling of helplessness. It ate at me.
As the anniversary of 911 approaches all of the coverage has brought back powerful memories and emotions. From escaping the city, to organizing the nation wide public service announcement campaign for the American Red Cross, to my work on the production team for the Concert for New York City, all of these events and my role in them are now part of history. Nothing was more life changing than 911 iteself. On September 11, 2001, I was at my desk in Times Square in Manhattan tending to the start of the day. What would transpire over the next 19 hours is something I will never forget. At the time, I sat down and wrote about what had happened on that day as I experienced it. I shared it with my family and friends. Today, in memory of this solemn day, I am sharing it with all of you. It was written on September 12, 2001 and appears exactly as it was then... errors and all!