Friday, February 02, 2007

A "State of the Arts" Idea

Even though a lot of the news regarding the Dallas Independent School District has been less than positive in recent years, we need to give them credit where it's due, and this new idea is definitely something positive:
The children of Dallas are about to reap the benefits of a hard-earned victory three decades in the making. By the end of 2009, every Dallas Independent School District student will receive 45 minutes of art and music instruction each week during the academic year – the first time that will be in all schedules since 1979.

A modest victory to be sure, but one that could be an important step in the larger, more crucial battle to raise the quality of education in our community.
That's right--no matter how much the "back to basics" crowd may be silent on this issue, giving students more access to the arts will raise the value of education overall.

Here's more:
President Bush's State of the Union address stressed the importance of education, particularly in science and math. What he didn't mention is how the arts increase performance in math, science and other curricula.

But Big Thought, a local nonprofit partnership, understands the connection. So, along with the city of Dallas, DISD and the New York-based Wallace Foundation, we are creating the Dallas Arts Learning Initiative.

It's a major undertaking. More than 50 of the region's most vital cultural institutions will partner in an estimated $39.8 million project that is believed to be one of the most comprehensive citywide arts-learning initiatives in U.S. history. In December, the Wallace Foundation awarded the program $8 million, the single biggest arts-learning grant ever presented.
And it will be money well spent:
DALI was created on one unabashedly idealistic, yet meticulously researched, premise – that students flourish when creativity drives learning.

Countless studies over the last four decades have supported this notion, but none hits home as strongly as the one conducted in our own back yard by Big Thought, DISD and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University.

In that report, which will be published in March, a representative sampling of Dallas elementary students whose teachers integrated curricula with high-quality arts experiences saw dramatic increases in tests scores, engaged learning behaviors and overall performance. The study shows that link again and again.

For example, one first-grade class from Casa View Elementary made a field trip to the Dallas Museum of Art, where students learned how artists use line, texture, symbols and color to express feelings in portraiture.
Read the whole thing. Nobody's denying that math and science and languages are crucial, but way too many members of the "basics" crowd seem to think that man can live by those subjects alone. The arts are too often seen as frivolous, and they tend to get short shrift when budgets need to be tightened. Hopefully, more initiatives like this will be created throughout Texas and across the nation so that everyone will realize that the arts are basic to a well-rounded education.

UPDATE: Here's a related story from today's paper.

Our government in (overre)action: A New York state lawmaker wants to establish legally-defined minimum weight standards for people in the fashion and entertainment industries.

Their government in (in)action: Meanwhile, the French minister of health wants to do a $9 million study on whether workers should be allowed to sleep on the job to make up for the rest they're not getting at home.

Phil says we get relief from the cold: The famous Pennsyvania groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, didn't see his shadow today, so that's supposed to mean we'll have an early spring. After having an actual winter here this year, that certainly would be welcome (as long as the drought doesn't return).

Don't stop the bleating: Happy 10th anniversary to James Lileks' "The Bleat."

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday to my friend and fraternity brother Kevin D. (currently a 2L in Houston).

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