Yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the new federal K-12 education act, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), by an overwhelming margin of 359-64. This bill includes expanded opportunities for arts and music education. As it makes its way to the Senate and the President’s desk, COMPAS Arts Programming Director, Daniel Gabriel, shares a thing or two he’s learned about arts education during the past 27 years…
It's taken a shockingly long time, but it appears that at last the message is seeping out across the country that being creative is not just an appealing factor for the idle few, but something that can impact every aspect of our daily lives.
Creativity cannot be contained by artificial curriculum boundaries. It cannot be enhanced by marketing schemes or top-down mandates. It will not be discovered by spending more time on standardized tests, or having classroom teachers undergo yet another round of diversity training. In fact, when the arts are (were?!) relegated to the sidelines of the modern educational endeavor, it's not likely to show up much at all.
On the other hand, bring in an artist or two and the entire group dynamic (whether in classroom, library, senior care setting) flips on its head. The artist isn't there to identify the right answer, or to separate out the competent from the incompetent. The artist is there to explore, to devise, to restructure. The artist sees a problem and thinks, What if? The artist looks for multiple solutions, turns mistakes into new avenues of discovery, fires off bursts of experimentation, and devises ways to leverage the creativity and passion of all members of the group involved in the artistic process.
The implications for societal change and for cross-cohort empathy are enormous. Forget the dead ends, the roadblocks. Often, there are multiple paths forward, if only we would take the time to explore them, creatively. Like Yogi said, "When you come to the fork in the road, take it." Now that's the creative approach.