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Friday, February 7, 2014

You Should Be Dancing*

Observation:  in the 1950's-1970's, it was the baton twirlers' mothers.  In the 1980's-2010's, it was the baton twirlers mothers wondering why  the band suddenly didn't need twirlers any more.  Those who figured it out became drum corp auxiliary (flags and rifles) mothers when their girls joined the corps.  Today it seems to be the Dance Moms (title in italics because of that vile show on Lifetime) who are giving arts teachers fits.They all seem to fit a pattern of behavior and attitude which will destroy even the best-laid arts education program in a New York minute.

POSIT: School arts programs exist to, among other things, provide creative outlets of various kinds to students, an introduction to careers for those interested in going that direction, and information to all students on the fundamentals of particular art forms--not necessarily in that order.  Further, local, state, and national organizations have created standards and/or best practices with the intention of providing a curricular basis.

For example, NAfME (National Association for Music Education, formerly MENC--Music Educators National Conference) has a list of nine such standards. To wit:

1. Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
2. Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
3. Improvising melodies, variations, and accompaniments.
4. Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines.
5. Reading and notating music.
6. Listening to, analyzing, and describing music.
7. Evaluating music and music performances.
8. Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts.
9. Understanding music in relation to history and culture.

This doesn't include competition standards and it doesn't ask the music educator to value or emphasize one type of music over another. This broad set of standards allows for teachers to be uniquely creative, to draw upon their own strengths and knowledge to enrich their student's knowledge and experience base.  One could even substitute the word "dance" or "choreography" in many of these standards, and chances are good that you'd be able to come up with a pretty strong curriculum if you did.  Then again, I'm not the dance education expert--but wouldn't you know, there's a group who is.

NDEO, the National Dance Education Organization, has developed its own philosophy of what dance instruction should look like at various levels, and has coordinated with NAfME and other arts education organizations  to create coordinated national standards for arts education.

I think it would pay for any parent whose child is involved in a K-12 school arts program (and an alarming number are not) to investigate these standards and decide for themselves whether or not their child's school arts program lives up to these standards.  To the extent that they do not, both organizations offer myriad ways in which the concerned parent might positively advocate on their child's behalf. 


*--Barry, Maurice, and Robin Gibb, Children of the World, 1976.
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