Dear Santa, Here we are once again. Another year has come and gone. There is a chill in the air, all the leaves have fallen from the trees, and holiday music fills the air. As has been my tradition for the last five years I would ask you once again for forego any gifts for me (sorry but the hair club for men membership just didn’t pan out!) and instead bring these gifts to those who is in greater need than I based on the year that was… and the one that will be: For Barack Obama #1 – The wisdom of all the prior presidents combined! Based on all he will inherit (a couple wars, a world economic crisis, a domestic economic meltdown) he will need the all the strength and wisdom he can channel to navigate these treacherous waters. Failure… is not an option. For President Bush - A new tractor. Now that he is on his way out as President he will have lots of free time for brush clearing down in Crawford Texas. A new tractor is just the thing to keep him busy. For John McCain – A way-back machine. It is clear the John McCain of 2008 was different from the John McCain of 2000. The 2000 model year was a better year for the Senator from Arizona. With the campaign now over and his chance for the presidency come and gone and the nation in crisis we could use his leadership to help bring bipartisanship to Washington… one can hope. For Sarah Palin – A new stage manager. Anyone who allows their boss to do an interview “pardoning” a turkey in front of hundreds of other turkeys who are being slaughtered deserves to be SHOT (figuratively speaking that is!) For Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bill Richardson, John Edwards, and Mike Huckabee – Lifetime Membership in the Music/Arts Education Hall of Fame. As the first presidential candidates ever to inject the importance of music and arts education into a national campaign - all have helped elevate the role and importance of these programs in the lives of our children. Now it will be up to us to keep the pressure and visibility up.
For Mike Huckabee – The thanks of millions of children. It was Mike Huckabee who promised to make music and arts education an issuee others would have to address. He kept his promise and others did address it. As Newsweek noted back in January… what is said on the campaign trail often leads to major national initiatives a few years later. If there is a major push for music and arts education in our future, Mike Huckabee will deserve a major share of the credit for making this a national issue. Oh… and the fact that he has a new book, TV show and Radio program which he is using to promote OUR cause doesn’t hurt! For Barack Obama #2 – More Bully… less Pulpit. His platform on the arts, itself a first for any president-elect, speak of using the “bully pulpit” to promote arts education. If he is serious about improving music and arts education in this nation - words will not be enough. We have had other presidents (Bill Clinton for one) who have used the “pulpit” to talk about arts education with little real change. When you are the President of the United States and you want to make a change for music and arts education… my vote is more bully! For Malia Obama - A lifetime love affair with music. That shiny new flute the 10 year-old daughter of the President-Elect recently rented from Quinlin and Fabish Music in Chicago means there will be a young child making music in the White House! Could there be any better way for our new President t understand the importance of music than by seeing it through the eyes of his own child? Me thinks not. For the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board– A way-forward machine. These are the folks that proposed only counting four courses toward the GPA for college admission citing the need to focus on “skills needed to succeed in college.” Somebody needs put these folks into a machine that will bring them to the year 2009 since they are acting like it is 1959. For the University of Wisconsin Marching Band - a mulligan. The band was suspended from performing at a home game against Ohio State “because of allegations of hazing and inappropriate behavior.” Just once, I want to go through the fall without reading about something stupid the University of Wisconsin Marching Band does. Hazing, drinking, and inappropriate behavior… who do they think they are… members of Congress? Band director Mike Leckrone earns an “atta boy” for bringing the hammer down with the suspension. For China, Canada and Finland - An exchange program. One country is mandating assessment in music and arts for grade promotion, another is giving parents tax credits for arts instruction, and the other one has developed a nationwide system of universal music literacy. I will trade you some of our policy makers for some of yours! For No Child Left Behind - a new name and new rules. I don’t mean to kick a dog when it is down but has there ever been a more ironically named law in the history of our nation? The comedic variations have been amazing: All Children Left Behind, No Child Left in Band, All Subjects Left Behind, No Child Left Untested… these would all be funny… if the law itself hadn’t wrought so much damage to music and arts education programs. Time to change the rules… AND CHANGE THE NAME! How about… The Elementary and Secondary Education Act… PLEASE? For School Administrators – A scalpel. With the economic downturn we have already seen the emergence of proposed program cuts in news stories from across the country. Instead of butchering away at the budget with a meat clever here is hoping that a scalpel will be employed to make surgical cuts to non-student centered programs so our children will not suffer. For Music and Arts Educators - New National Standards for Arts Education. It’s almost 2009 (or by the time you get to this it IS 2009). Work on the original (and current) National Standards started in 1992… 17 years ago. A lot has changed. Shouldn’t our National Standards be updated to be reflective of today’s educational needs? Western Carolina University Marching Band – A Vegas Show! These folks can PLAY and entertain! A little Vegas, a little Broadway, some hip hop, and a full serving of JAM makes this band one of the best in the land! Bonus points for staying out of the news headlines (unlike some other college bands we know)! For Wisconsin’s State Superintendent of Education Libby Burmaster and Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton… cloning! These two leaders have gone about developing a statewide creativity strategy that should be a model for others to follow. It would be wonderful to be able to clone them and have their ideas planted in other parts of the country. And while we are n the subject of creativity… For Sir Ken Robinson – More writing time. With a new book, The Element, hitting the shelves January 12th and his growing stature as the leader of the creativity movement around the world, and the central role creativity is taking in the debate of the shape of education and culture globally… the more he writes… the better off we all are! For all our readers… best wishes for a wonderful holiday and a happy and rewarding New Year.