Gubernatorial candidates share thoughts on arts education
Young Audiences is using Maryland YA Week as an occasion to ask those running for governor of Maryland for their views on arts education. As we mentioned earlier this week, we extended the invitation to all candidates to answer two questions that would be shared on our blog. Today we are sharing all of the responses we received to the first question:
Maryland needs creative citizens who can imagine new possibilities for our society, think critically, solve complex problems, and collaborate effectively with others to turn these new possibilities into a reality. Young Audiences/Arts for Learning believes that the arts are an essential vehicle for building these 21st Century Skills. We are concerned both by the cuts in arts education and that our standardized testing model does not recognize the full set of capacities needed to ensure that Maryland has a thriving workforce and a civil society. As governor, how would you address our concerns?
Every Maryland student, regardless of where they live or the resources of their family, deserves a world-class education that includes the arts. We often talk about STEM education, but the conversation needs to be about the broader STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, ARTS, and Mathematics) education. Arts integration in classrooms has been shown to reduce achievement gaps among economically disadvantaged youth. Access to arts programs has been linked to greater achievement on standardized tests for older students as well. But, perhaps most importantly, the arts promote healthy expression and important skills like creativity, innovation, risk-taking, and critical thinking, which are not nurtured in the traditional classroom setting.
Recently, the Brown-Ulman campaign announced our Running Start Program to deliver universal, voluntary, high-quality Pre-K to all Maryland 4-year-olds by 2018. We look forward to working with the arts community to ensure that Pre-K programming includes arts education.
As a teacher and school administrator at the middle school level for 34 years, I have a strong support for both performing and visual arts. This has expanded for me as I watch our grandchildren participating in choirs, bands, and plays with the eldest actually designing and preparing costumes for musicals. As governor I would fund these types of projects and encourage school systems to develop Magnet and Signature programs to attract students and raise their education level–something which standardized testing undermines.
I share [Young Audiences’] passion for the arts as a means for imagining new possibilities for our society, thinking critically, and connecting to the world around us. I have seen this firsthand, thanks to my wife, Laura, an author who has used the medium of writing to illustrate the lives of women imagining new possibilities for women during times–and in communities–where women were not equals. One of her books, “The Mysterious Private Thompson,” tells the true story of Sara Emma Edmonds who hid her gender to fight in the Civil War. Another, “Class Action,” recounts the true story of Lois Jenson, one of the first women hired at a Minnesota iron mine, the sexual harassment she experienced in the workplace, and the first class action sexual harassment lawsuit in the United States that resulted from it. That book inspired “North Country,” which used the medium of film to dramatize this important subject. As my wife’s books and the response to them demonstrate, art can provide meaning, insight, and understanding that moves us to reconsider our perspective and improve our world–often when our government and its leaders are unable to do so.
For our state–and our democracy–to flourish, we need to support our artists, and this includes funding for the arts and arts education. Unfortunately, over the last seven years, state funding for the arts has been largely uncertain, cut from $15.2 million in FY2008 down to $13.3 million by FY2010, only increasing last year for the first time in several years; and the Special Fund for the Preservation of Cultural Arts has been left unfunded for periods of time as well.
State funding for the arts and arts education will be secure during my administration as governor. I will work to make sure that arts education is supported and recognized as a vital component of education to be defended and protected, and that state leaders view it as a type of education that can translate into jobs. When evaluating the many achievement gaps in our state’s schools, we should also be looking at arts gaps, and should recognize that arts integration has the capacity to transform learning and close these gaps. I will work to ensure equal access to arts education–and the creativity and innovation it fosters–as governor. As President Obama has said, “The future belongs to young people with an education and the imagination to create.”
Lastly, as we continue our state’s transition to the Common Core State Standards, I will look for ways to help teachers find opportunities to use the arts to improve their instruction. It is true that our standardized testing model does not recognize how skills in the arts can empower our young people to be talented leaders in the workforce and in society as a whole, so I will seek more ways to integrate arts education into our overall education program. I am thrilled by the work organizations like yours do to advance this effort.
My education program, “The Pre-K Plan” is a plan for education for grades one through college. I am a teacher and I am in favor of education. It starts with a mother and father. When I used to teach in 1964 I had a parent come see me for parent teacher conferences. This parent said: “I don’t understand my son is doing well in your class but my other son is not doing well in the 10th grade.” We have lost the family as an institution. We have to have a mother and father or surrogate mother or father who is willing to give care. You have to spend time with your children every day and we have to ask about their day every day. Until we fix the family our education is going to be a mess. It is not the money that makes the education system work; it is the effort, time, and commitment to working with your children.
One of the first things I am going to do [as governor] is call a conference of every church leader and every leader of the Jewish community and I am going to tell them they have to go back to their synagogues and churches and tell their members they have to take an interest in their children. Even businesses have to participate in the tracking of a child and be involved in mentoring and communicating with children. There must be a tracking system for everyone who is in the public education system. That doesn’t cost money, it is about leadership.
Any 21st Century innovation economy will need a private sector that knows how to capture the imagination of consumers. My 10-point jobs plan is centered in empowering middle-class families to earn more, be taxed less, and in turn, spend more money in our economy. Maryland needs a creative workforce to not only encourage our consumers to invest in the private sector, but also bring our communities closer together.
That is why I include the arts in my plan for growing our 21st Century innovation economy. Investing in science and technology fields is absolutely crucial—they will create enormous benefits in quality of life advances. But the arts are just as crucial, with regard to both culture and innovation. I have always believed that emotional intelligence is just as important for innovation as scientific intelligence. Look at Apple as just one example. Its products are not necessarily more useful than those of competitors, but the artistic design is extremely user-friendly and it completely captures the imagination of its consumers.
This all has to begin in our schools—a culturally aware and creative workforce has to be developed in our education system. Unfortunately, art has become the stepchild of school subjects. In my time on the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee, I have stood up against cuts to the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC), which provides many important grants for arts education in both schools and extracurricular settings. As governor, I will work to expand funding for the MSAC, with a focus on providing more grant funding for school systems that need it most. We also need to look at arts as a more important element of the school day and I plan on making that message very clear to local school systems as governor.
This shift in vision for our education system also has to take form in our accountability measures. I am deeply concerned about the growing high-stakes testing culture that is spreading throughout our schools. Learning is not about consuming the right answers—it is about producing the profound questions and chasing those questions passionately. Teaching to the test does not spark creativity and a love for learning. As governor, I will put in place a four-year moratorium on using standardized tests scores for educator evaluations, and explore alternative assessments to PARCC that do more to encourage innovation and creativity in the classroom.
Help us celebrate National and Maryland YA Week!
Join us in recognizing the importance of arts education this week by joining the conversation online and spreading the word. Be sure to check back in with the Young Audiences Blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter as we continue highlighting the work of our artists and ensembles who are bringing valuable arts learning experiences to Maryland students this week. On Thursday, we will post each candidate’s response to the second of our two questions.
Click here to learn more about Governor O’Malley’s Maryland Young Audiences Arts for Learning Week proclamation.
To see all Maryland YA Week news, click here.