All societies and cultures, have limits on what is acceptable behavior and what is allowable in the way of personal expression, yet the arts remain a relatively free space in which to create more complicated forms of public interaction. The world is open to integration and interpretation more than ever before and the effect that art has on us as individuals and as a society is now reaching beyond the borders of any given culture. Mass communication -- via television, the Internet, and cinema, along with cultural syncretism and networking between nations and even continents, has enabled us as human beings to see beyond ourselves and our own boundaries.
Art communicates on a much deeper level than the written word and can challenge and encourage critical thinking. Certain types of art can also be used to build awareness within a society about given issues, but it must do so from a place of affinity for and with the viewer. Art that empowers the viewer immerses both the artist and the audience in a conversation where subjectivity is tested, and agreement sought. It requires art work that respects the personal dimensions of resistance to transformation that each of us have within us, and which can help build community by presenting shared experiences, including difficulties or suffering, in such a way that empathy for self and others is created.
As students begin their school years and we approach the fall in our community, it is important for us to remember the impact of education in our homes, schools and communities. For decades, research has shown that when students participate in the arts as a part of their education, they go on succeed in school, work and life.
Recently, in Washington, D.C., the new Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law - replacing no Child Left Behind. This new bill fully supports the arts as part of every students' "well-rounded" education. It provides the flexibility for students to learn creatively and for local districts and states to create schools that embrace the arts. What we know is simple: students attend school more often when they have access to the arts, parents and families engage with the schools when schools embrace the arts, dropout rates decrease, grades increase - and the halls are filled with artwork, songs, drama and dancing.
And, I'm not alone in this belief. According to a recent public opinion poll, released in March, 9 out of 10 Americans believe that the arts are essential to a student's well rounded education.
However, so often we see that access is not there in communities across our state and the country. In that same public opinion poll, 67% of Americans believed that there was not sufficient access to the arts for their students to reap the benefits. Additionally, there is study after study that indicate the opportunity gap in arts education, specifically along racial and socio-economic lines. We must stand together to fight for equity in access and delivery of arts education to the young people in our community our state, and the nation.
As we celebrate National Arts in Education Week, we should take pause to cheer for our accomplishments, but we should also remember the work we have to do. How can our district help provide equitable opportunities for all of our young people? How can we use the new law to create arts-rich schools? How can we support parents, families and the community in provide more opportunities for engagement? It's up to us - the arts education community - to take a stand and lead.
Modesto Junior College