For one of my day jobs, I'm the admin for an arts education program. And Sept 11-17th is National Arts in Education week, so I thought I'd talk about some of what I see firsthand.
1) Good arts education isn't about making professional artists. It's about the life skills that come from arts-based learning, whether that's how to work with others, taking turns and problem solving in groups, or about confidence when speaking in front of groups, or learning a variety of communication tools to articulate your point.
2) Arts get kids excited to be at school. It's a reason to show up.
3) There's a scary spiral thinking in our public schools. School funding is tied to test scores. Jobs are tied to school funding. When test scores are low and jobs are on the line, the mandate becomes teach the test and nothing else. It's drill baby drill and no room for 'extras' like arts.
4) Classroom teachers, especially at the elementary school level, work HARD. Does your job require you to be 100% present with the task at hand for 6-7 hours with only a few short 'breaks' where you may still be supervising others?
5) There's almost nothing more amazing than a breakthrough in student growth. I've got a classroom teacher partner who still gets tears in her eyes when she talks about a shy student who spoke actual words in front of the whole class for the first time in one of our workshops from two years ago.
Also, I wrote a letter to the editor about arts education, and it was published in the San Francisco Chronicle on 9/10/11. A link to the letter is here.