December, 1987

David Willoughby

Creative writing is to be required in the K-12 curriculum as one of the arts along with the visual arts, music, dance, and theatre. The arts deserve to be taught in K-12 with the same level of expertise as any other subject and to be provided resources of time, money, and personnel that are equivalent to every other basic academic subject. Every school should have an in-school, sequential arts program that serves all the children. The profession needs a unified voice to speak nationally on behalf of the needs of arts in the schools.

These opening statements are from a series of recommendations formulated at the Interlochen Symposium: Toward a New Era in Arts Education, held November 5-8, 1987, in the rustic and inspiring setting of the Interlochen Center for the Arts, Interlochen, Michigan. This three-day gathering of about 150 arts administrators and advocates of the arts considered the quality and needs of arts education in the next several decades and proposed ways of strengthening arts programs in the public schools. The Symposium was sponsored by the American Council for the Arts and the Music Educators National Conference.

We as college teachers of music might consider what all this means for music in higher education. What stake, particularly over the long term, do college teachers of theory, musicology, performance, or any other music discipline have in the welfare of arts programs or even music programs K-12?

I attended the Symposium as the representative of CMS with particular concerns for the vitality of the arts in general and the preparation of music teachers in particular.

The focus of the Symposium was on political strategies for improving arts education. Its declarations were aimed at influencing the local citizenry such as school board members, legislators, parents, and others who shape or influence curricula, standards, graduation requirements, and teacher certification programs.

Six pre-conference papers were prepared for delegates to consider as the basis for discussions. They dealt with the role, content, and purposes of arts curricula, with long-term planning for improving arts education, with developing strategies for advocacy and action, and with pooling community resources through partnerships among teachers, artists, and scholars and among organizations, agencies, and institutions.

Delegates called upon American schools to provide arts education for all students everyday and to recognize that the arts are essential to every child's education. They declared that each child deserves the opportunity to develop all the dimensions of his or her being and to permit the arts to help children reach their full potential. Delegates further declared that schools provide opportunities for children to explore a variety of subjects including the arts, that arts professionals join educators in the humanities and sciences to develop a more effective and balanced school agenda, and that we in the arts collaborate efforts on behalf of arts education in the development of broadened and more substantive arts curricula and in participation in vigorous advocacy efforts.