Created by state education leaders and governors from 48 states, the Common Core is the largest effort in the United States to develop a set of unified standards intended to equip students with the knowledge and skills required to succeed in college and careers. A popular refrain from Common Core advocates is “fewer, higher, deeper” — in essence the main shift from previous standards is to offer a reduced number of more rigorous standards. The Core has been met with mixed reactions from educators around the nation. Some are excited about the emphasis on deep critical thinking and others find the new mandates and benchmarks to be cumbersome and confusing. When it comes to the connection between Common Core and the arts, there is a lot to be explored.
I have been involved in theatre and the arts so long that one of my oldest memories is losing my first tooth at a summer theatre camp, so let’s say four or five. Throughout my 18 years, I have seen how important the arts are, I have seen how they benefit me, my age group, and all students involved in these programs within public education. I have seen how paramount it is that we advocate for arts funding and fight to raise the priority level of arts in the mind of the public and our governments: from local school boards cutting arts programs, to the federal government nixing grant programs for arts endowment.
Individuals who lobby and support the arts, see that the fight for the arts is for the benefit of the public. We see arts education as a key element to being better, being more active members in our communities, and well-rounded people. We see the overwhelming benefits art programs bring to students and schools. We know individuals can work together to ensure policies and programs such as the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District are guaranteed to children and families.
Through my active 13 years in the arts community, I can speak to these values, these lessons that the arts share with students. I am the thriving person I am today because of the arts. The arts have taught me about myself. They gave me a platform to be myself. Being gay, I know the arts community as a home, a place where I know it is okay to be me. I have thrived because I know that my community of artists shares the belief of acceptance.
There are obvious reasons. I love their enthusiasm as they do a really hard and really important job. I love that they’re invariably easy to talk to, and funny. But there’s a bigger reason that I love theatre teachers, and to explain it I’m going to talk about a play that I wrote a long time ago.