Shortly after I posted here about my difficulties with advocating for dance programs in various public and private schools, I wrote briefly about it (along with a link to the original post) on the K-12 education forum of the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO)… and seem to have opened up quite a can of worms (or at least jolted a lively discussion into being)!
Immediately, I got a few emails directly back to me —one from a teacher in NY who is in a terrible situation but feels trapped because of the dearth of other programs, another suggesting that private schools need to be told not how dance will benefit their current students, but how it will how it will benefit the school financially by attracting more students (interesting point, I thought). Some of the initial responses on the forum were a bit disappointing — platitudes like "follow the three P's: Persistence, Perseverance and Patience," and asking if I had started an honor society chapter at my school or if I had my students do outreach in the community, as well as reminders about all the advocacy resources available from NDEO (as if I didn't know about and use them already!). So, after a week or so, I posted again — trying to put it as diplomatically as I could, but saying that much of the advice sounded like encouragement for someone new to this (which I am anything but!), and mentioning the work my students had done, when I still had a dance program…
Once I had chimed back in, things got rolling… A former Visual and Performing Arts coordinator for the state of California responded with a continuation of my rant, raising the great inequities in support for the four arts disciplines in our state: "California has all four arts as academic courses. The support for each arts discipline is not equal. Since 1979 the equity disparity widens and the arts are dropped for math, reading and science… Arts funds given to districts specifically for arts education now, with the state's "economic distress," may be used for what ever they need - that wouldn't happen to designated funds for math, reading or science." A prominent researcher in the value of dance education widened the discussion to include teachers in all subjects: "as I read current accounts from teachers of all subject areas, I hear the same concerns repeated over and over. Great teachers are leaving the profession in droves, and administrators are so pressured to reduce the ranks and hire younger, more malleable, less expensive teachers that they are resorting to blind ignorance and indifference to the facts." Another colleague and dance education mentor spoke to the issue on a more local level: "in our county, the arts education team is probably one of the biggest obstacles to dance. Having neither the energy nor the will to understand dance, they time and again bring money to visual art and music. When they must include all four disciplines, they often default to a non-standards-based dance provider"; and she quoted creative dance icon Anne Green Gilbert as once saying "when they say arts education, they don't mean dance."
The discussion shifted as various responders brought up their work in LGBT or environmental activism, and explored ideas around creating urgency and becoming change agents. I suspect the conversation will continue in other forms, especially as teachers meet in the fall at the annual conference… In any case, I found I was certainly not alone in my thinking, and it was good to get the conversation going.