For a school project, my friend Quinn found the statistics below about Philadelphia public schools. In 2007:
119 schools have no vocal music teacher (44% of the district's schools)
109 schools (41%) lack an art teacher
That's just Philadelphia and these numbers are on the rise.
Education itself, as an idea, has been on my mind for a few years now. And I just keep wondering: What is the purpose of our educational system these days? How are we educating anybody when we cut arts funding? Who and how are we educating anyone in our current system? I still believe that equal access to quality education is the key to a just society and the arts are key to a healthy educational system (for a whole host of reasons to innumerable to mention here.) So, it always follows for me that access to the arts for everyone is the key to a just society. It's plain and simple. We need to get back to this reality somehow. How is the question. Will I try to figure out this how? Yes, yes I will, I will try. Will you try to help me? I hope so. I need your help, now more than ever.
In the horror of anything, we can find the how. If we face the horror, we will find the how, as complex and mighty as it is to the horror. That is the truth. Do you want to live in a world where people have no idea what art is? Do you want to leave behind a world where people have no way to validate what they instinctively make (art) as worthwhile, as worthy as any endeavor? Artists, I am talking to you. Your art will mean nothing if we do not begin to train again the young artists in our schools today. You were young once, too. You went to school at some point. Do you remember the first teacher who made you feel like making art was important? For 41% of the schools in Philadelphia, hundreds, probably thousands, of students will never know what that’s like if we don’t try to take some action now.
I don’t know what the how is, but I do know to get there we need to face the fact that there is a problem. It seems like a lot of policymakers don't think there is a problem, but there is one. And action to take? Maybe just a real conversation among artists would be a start. I don't think that I am starting that conversation very well here, but maybe you can start some conversations among yourselves, and that would be a start, a good start. I would like that a lot.
A few months ago, I watched some kids make the encaustic pieces below in a Philadelphia school. My favorite is the joker one, cause while the boy was making it, he was looking at his favorite playing card, The Joker, dredged up from deep inside his pocket. The Imagination was with him then. I know The Imagination pretty well myself. It has been my friend since I was a young girl in a public school art class. I'm so glad this particularly wonderful boy has made friends with The Imagination early on. It is never too early to go to the other side. The other side is where real learning occurs. And learning, real learning––that's the point of everything.
Here's The Joker, seen in wax:
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