Art Works Blog

The Arts and Education: Rocco Speaks at AEP's Spring Forum

April 9, 2010
Washington, DC

Earlier this afternoon Rocco and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke on the topic "A Well Rounded Education in the 21st Century" at the opening plenary session of the spring national forum of the Arts Education Partnership.

In his first major public speech on arts education, the NEA chairman  noted, "I have challenged my staff to see if we can make sure that there is at least one arts education grant in every Congressional district. . . . I want to know that we have reached every part of America with some support for arts education."

Speaking to an audience of representatives from federal arts and education agencies, state departments of education, state arts agencies, national arts and education organizations, and arts and education collaboratives at the state and local level, Rocco cited a number of reasons to support an increase in arts education: "The arts provide us with new ways of thinking, new ways to draw connections. They are important social capital, and they help maintain our competitive edge by engendering innovation and creativity."

He also expounded on the need for public schools to lead the charge for arts education. "It is our job to support and expand the work of our public schools. But the public schools need to own arts education---it should not be outsourced to us. No one would ever expect 'teaching scientists' from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History to replace the biology teachers at a public school. So our job is to work with classroom teachers and teaching artists to help extend their work. But we have a second job beyond that, a role in offering models for building better learning environments."

The chairman added that he sees a difference between arts exposure and arts education. "Arts exposure is fine, but unless students are prepared for the art, unless teachers are integrating the art into the students' overall learning for the year, it remains exposure, not education. Having a casual familiarity with something is not the same as being fully informed and knowledgeable."

Rocco went on to propose the idea that permission to fail is ultimately crucial to success. "Productive failure. . . fail often and succeed sooner. . . failure as inspiration and drive. . . failure as fun. . . failure as permission to try again. These are the values of successful members of American industry. But we are not really talking about this in our schools. Many schools are not teaching the art of innovation, the art of the productive, noble, fun failure."

Rocco ended his address with a call to action: "Let's make sure that we remain in conversation . . . Let's make sure the arts are in our schools: every child, every day. And most importantly, let's make sure that we use the arts to inform every aspect of education."

You can read the full text of Rocco's remarks here.

You can read the full text of Secretary Ducan's remarks here.

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