|PA Dutch Hex sign|
|Student art work, Allentown cityscape|
I teach children about the buildings in Allentown, our parks, the Pennsylvania Dutch influences- like Hex signs at the Farmers Market. Have you seen those circular designs and ever wondered what they were? When I teach a paper sculpture lesson I talk about the roller coasters at nearby Dorney Park, or about our new destination playground at Cedar Beach park. Art communicates where we live, and our experiences in that world. And "art work" is not just what we see at galleries and museums, but also the local kitschy stuff, collectibles, public statues, or crafts that have meaning to a particular group of people.
Today, even though so called "rigorous" state and national "standards" are at the center of public education, we must not forget to teach children about their local community and its history. Parents should make sure that school instruction time is not primarily spent on rote learning exercises, with disconnected facts from worksheets, or mainly material that will be tested. I know I'll be asking a lot of questions about WHAT exactly my child is being taught at middle school.
Due to budget cuts and bad decisions by our school board, I know that elementary school children have not be given many opportunities to learn about the art, architecture, music, drama, or dance that makes our community unique. Social studies has been greatly reduced or nearly eliminated from the school curriculum. Holiday celebrations have been nearly eliminated. There are not as many opportunities for field trips, school plays, or project based learning, due to the amount of instructional time spent on testing and test prep. But still, we hear the empty suits pontificate in platitudes about academic rigor, and college and career readiness, and implementing world class standards for excellence through a standards aligned system with resiliency and "value-added" accountability measures. We hear about test score success. As if everything we do MUST be measured. As if this corporate jargon has anything at all to do with developing engaged human beings living in a community. The arts are all about being human, and about human relationships. When I think about my public school memories I think about the playground, the class plays, learning an instrument, my state report, show and tell, field day, glee club, painting in art class, the Halloween parades, my teachers, my friends, my neighborhood. That's what sticks.
“The opportunity that Hawai’i offered, to experience a variety of cultures in a climate of mutual respect, became an integral part of my worldview and a basis for the values I hold most dear.”
---President Barack Obama