Perhaps It Is A Lack of Desire To Make The Arts Fit

Looking back at past entries, I came across a post I wrote about educator Jane Remer’s thoughts about arts in education. I had read and written this post years before I began corresponding with the late Carter Gillies about the problematic instrumental view of the arts so, as they say, it hits differently now.

In her post, The Arts Just Don’t Fit in Most of Our Schools, Remer writes:

The arts community – arts educators, arts organizations, artists who work with schools, other friends of the arts–has tried and failed for years to make the case for the arts in every student’s life and learning environment. Claims abound for the arts as important intellectual and experiential domains as well as exceedingly effective instrumental bridges to other usually non-arts ends. These claims are rarely backed up by solid empirical research and when they are, the evidence is overwhelmingly correlational, not causal. These claims are almost never made by school people, K-20 and beyond, and only occasionally uttered by policy makers, whether top down legislators or bottom up teachers, leaders and district superintendents.

In another post, “What Can We Do to Make the Arts Count As Education, she lists many of the reasons art isn’t counted, partially because no one invests the attention, time and funding in doing so, and partially because benefits an+d outcomes aren’t easily captured by metrics people value:

Today, when people talk about counting the arts, they usually mean quantifying — how much, how often, by whom, for whom, at what cost, and the like. These are good things to know but they tell us nothing about what is being taught and learned, the quality of instruction and learning, the depth of inquiry, the time spent on reflection, and the methods, if any, used to assess the process and the results. They don’t tell us when to make mid-course corrections, where the learning gaps are, how teachers or students are struggling (or not), and where an infusion of technical and other professional assistance might be judicious. In other words, we don’t have the information we need to diagnose our own knowledge and behavior as well as that of our students. And, we don’t treat the arts like full-fledged core subjects that are essential to student overall growth and achievement.

Given the length of time I have been blogging, I have read a lot about arts education, but seldom has it been as specific and insightful as Jane Remer’s thoughts and observations.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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