Monday, March 8, 2010

Youth Art Month Text

Please continue to contact your legislators. This is a critical week of negotiation.
Tell them to support our public schools with emergency funding measures.

Here is the speech text from our Youth Art Month reception:

Good afternoon! My name is Clyde Gaw. I am an art teacher.
I thank you all for coming to today’s event. Supporting children’s positive educational experiences is one of the most important things we can do.

One thing I know about is meaningful learning. This phenomenon could be described as life changing. When you see meaningful learning experienced by students, you can see them absorbed in a state of “flow.” Flow states are characterized by a dynamic single mindedness of purpose accompanied by intense feelings of engagement. Rigor is facilitated from within. Emotional attachment is key to meaningful learning.

Flow states are what art education is all about. When children are engaged in creative experience, they are receptive to all kinds of new learning. This is what art teachers do; they engage the visual and tactile senses with the creative spirit. They integrate art experience with essential educational content like reading, writing, geometry, history, critical thinking and problem solving.

In the year 2000 Dr. Eric Kandel won the Nobel Prize for a lifetime of research that showed stimulating sensory activity during learning experience significantly boosts long term memory formation. When sensory stimulation occurs, cells produce extra serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps those cells to grow. The serotonin acts as a kind of molecular fertilizer which can grow and expand existing brain cells and lead to physical changes within the brain. Dr. Kandel’s research reveals that neural networks are strengthened and expanded when learners are engaged in stimulating, sensory based meaningful learning events. The secret here is that the eyes and hands are the agents of cognition.

Consequently, when educational experience is not stimulating, learning can go into one ear, and out the other. This fact is extremely important for policymakers and voters to consider. Results from the latest High School Survey of Student Engagement, conducted by researchers from Indiana University with over 135,000 high school students participating from across the U.S. reveals 67% of students did not feel engaged during their school years. Upon further examination of the survey, students reveal subject areas like art, music and drama provide them with significant opportunities to personally connect with their learning.

Unfortunately, learning opportunities in the arts are dwindling in school corporations across the country and here in the State of Indiana. An unprecedented education funding crisis this year has lead to program cuts, and teacher layoffs. The revenue forecast for next year is not good either. The specter of larger class sizes, elimination of electives like art and music, will increase the likelihood of more dis-engaged students. Disengaged individuals frequently drop out of school resulting in higher crime rates, lack of unemployment opportunities and a myriad of other wicked socio economic problems. Public schools are the backbone of our communities. The health of our public school system affects us all.

If you have not contacted your Governor and state legislators and urged them to strengthen public education funding, I ask you to do so today.

Long term funding solutions must be created by our state leaders, or we are going to face a public education crisis unprecedented in our time. If your child’s art program has been cut, communicate with your school board to reinstate those programs once emergency school funding measures have been provided.

Arts education experiences are critical for a well rounded education. Human beings are hard wired to think and dream in visual images. Ideas and intellectual property dependent upon visual thinkers will become assets in the new economy of the 21st Century. The refinement of the imagination as developed through the visual arts will provide future designers, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, innovators, professionals and others with the creative edge they will need to compete in an increasingly competitive and uncertain future.
The creativity of our children is a national resource we cannot afford to waste.

We cannot afford future failures of imagination.

I thank you for bringing your families here today, and I thank you for your support of arts education.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Emergency Funding at Critical Crossroads

Please send your legislators another round of emails. School Corporations are cutting teachers and programs as you read this message.

We are at a critical crossroads.

Teachers and programs if cut, from a school corporation will not be called back if this emergency funding measures are not put into place. IPS has just cut 15.7 art teacher positions and just as many music positions.

We need to let legislators know we do not want education to be second rate here in Indiana.

Contact your legislators now.