Monday, May 23, 2011
Fourteen years ago today, Fritz and I met at a friend's house in Cambridge, MA. I was struck by a face of immense kindness, clear French blue eyes, a lively sense of humor, vitality, intelligence -- there was an instant connection. Three days later, each of us contacted the host on how to get in contact with the other, and we were off and running. It has never faltered, but has deepened with the years and weathered some challenges life threw at us along the way.
We're off to Tuscan Kitchen in Salem, NH tonight to celebrate our anniversary (Thanks, Rick of Bandit Talks, for the recommendation!) and begin year 15!
Some people say you know a country is in trouble when it starts allowing people of the same sex who love each other to form a legal union and have the obligations and benefits enjoyed by other couples.
I say a country is in trouble when it's political leaders seek to reduce our already degraded educational system, and throw retired people under the bus proposing to slash the financial support and health protection promised to the very senior citizens who raised and educated them, among other major accomplishments. The following article points out the danger of eliminating arts education in our schools, a seriously misguided goal that will further cheat our children by impoverishing their imaginations, sensitivity and creativity.
But I believe most politicians know that an educated electorate is their biggest enemy.
President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Last week, the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities released a study on arts education and the news is bleak. Taking information on a 2008 report from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Los Angeles Times recently reported: "Among children of a college graduate, 27% said they had never taken even one arts class, compared with 12% in 1982. For children of high school graduates, the number who'd never had any arts study rose from 30% nearly 30 years ago to 66% in 2008."
This radical diminution in exposure of children to arts education has dire consequences for our arts ecology as well as our nation as a whole.
Traditionally, young children were exposed to the arts by their families and their schools. I remember playing the triangle in nursery school, singing in music class in grade school and singing in chorus and playing in the orchestra throughout my junior and senior high school days. I was an exception. When most students entered high school, they stopped their arts participation as they focused on dating, college, career and creating a family. Most people ages 18-45 had little discretionary time and money and only returned to the arts when their children were grown and their careers flourished. This influx of middle-aged ticket buyers, subscribers, donors, volunteers and board members was essential for the health and vitality of our arts organizations.
The startling fact revealed in the statistics in this new arts education report is that we cannot expect this trend to continue. Will someone with no arts experiences as a child automatically become a subscriber or donor to the arts when they hit middle age? Will they volunteer at a local dance school? Will they be willing to join the board of a theater company? I doubt it.
If not, where will the earned and unearned income for the arts come from in 20 or 30 years? The arts suffer from inflation more than other industries owing to our difficulty improving productivity. We need to add income more quickly rather than less quickly than other sectors of the economy.
As dire as the consequences may be for our field, they are much more serious for our economy as a whole. The United States no longer depends on manufacturing as the central element of our economy. Less than 20% of our gross domestic product now comes from manufacturing, the lowest level among developed countries.
Our economic future depends on a work force that must be creative problem solvers, those who can invent new products and create new software. This means our educational system must produce creative, problem-solving graduates. Who better to play a role in exercising the creative minds of our children than we in the arts? How are students going to build confidence in their abilities to create if they are not given access to education that goes beyond reading, writing and arithmetic?
Those who argue that investing in arts education is frivolous are simply wrong. We do our children and grandchildren no favor by reducing deficits by cutting educational opportunities. But arts organizations are going to have to do more and better arts education in the coming years; we are going to have to work together to create smarter, stronger more efficient arts programming for children.
The health of our field and of our nation is at stake.
"French Blue Eyes"? Explain. Is that a saying or is Fritz French? Because now I'm going to say that Fred has French Blue Eyes. Because it's true!
Have a fun trip!
Your Friend, m.
I would like your opinion some day about the 'graying' of the arts viz. how there seem to be few young people going to concerts, opera etc.
You are a handsome couple & I love you both. Best wishes on this important anniversary.
This post certainly mixes the marvelous (14 years) with the grim: "I believe most politicians know that an educated electorate is their biggest enemy." Ergo, politicians axing funding the arts in education is a win-win situation for them. I don't know how you turn this around.