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Are children being left behind?
By Julia Murin Lee
Earlier this year, in an introduction I wrote for the new Content Standards and Objectives, I referred to an anecdote told by Ken Sullivan in a West Virginia Humanities Council newsletter. According to Sullivan, during World War II, Winston Churchill approached his country’s parliament for funds for the arts and humanities. His judgment was questioned. How could he, in the middle of this chaotic time, bring himself to make such a request? The master statesman is reported to have replied, “So that when all of this is over we will know what it was we were fighting for.” Is this not the case today?
To this quotation, I would like to add two very eloquent contributions from John Ruskin:
“Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts — the book of their deeds, the book of their words, and the book of their art.”
“Life without industry is guilt, industry without art is brutality.”
And speaking of “industry,” according to a press release in late January, a study conducted by the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research finds what we in the arts have always known: The arts bring in a lot of dollars as well as sense. In 2001 the arts in Monongalia County generated more than 5.5 million dollars in business volume and nearly 500 jobs (see story on page 16). If you are interested in looking more closely at the study (“Economic Impact of the Arts Monongalia County 2001”), copies are accessible online at www.bber.wvu.edu and at www.artsmon.org/econstudy.
The legislation and its ramifications
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 recognizes the arts as core curriculum, and emphasizes that the arts be given equal billing with reading, math, science, and other disciplines. It provides for arts education as “an integral part of the elementary and secondary school curriculum.” However, many people may not be aware that the arts are now identified as a core subject in the NCLB Act; as a result, they may also be unaware that many types of federal education funds may be used for arts education.
However, unless Congress appropriates more than $15 million for Arts in Education, all direct noncompetitive grant funding will go to the John F. Kennedy Center and Very Special Arts programs. According to Title V, Part D, Subpart 15 (Arts in Education) of the NCLB Act, if funding is greater than $15 million, “the Arts in Education program is authorized to provide assistance to state education agencies, school districts, institutions of higher education, museums or other cultural institutions, and other public or private organizations.” Particular emphasis is put on model projects and programs to integrate arts education into the regular elementary school and secondary school curriculum.
If you want to see how your representatives in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives voted last year on the arts, you can search and inquire at www.AmericansForTheArts.org.
Finally, go to http://aep-arts.org/Funding.html to learn more about the new legislation. There you will find a guide titled No Subject Left Behind, a “living document” that will be continually updated with information as well as links to more detailed information and resources.
Julia Murin Lee is Arts Coordinator at the WV Department of Education. Call her at 304-558-7805, ext. 350, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.