Incensed by recent trends to eliminate arts education from public-school curriculums, co-editors Kohl and Oppenheim present 20 insightful essays in a bid to draw attention to the cultural and developmental significance of the cause.
National Book Award winner Kohl (The Herb Kohl Reader, 2011, etc.) is angered by the myth that the arts “are merely frills or embellishments to a meaningful education,” while Oppenheim, artistic director of New York City’s Stella Adler Studio of Acting (and Adler’s grandson) reiterates the social functionality of teaching the arts to less-fortunate youth, “no matter how difficult their circumstances.” A live panel discussion in 2008 inspired these insightful essays from a variety of artists in many mediums. Recollecting her dyslexic childhood enlivened by theater, Whoopi Goldberg believes in the nurturing of the “artistic voice.” Rosie Perez comments that her current work on the board of a nonprofit arts organization allows her to promote creativity to children in inner-city NYC. Phylicia Rashad testifies to the good fortune of a high-school experience rich in artistic programs and creative encouragement; she pleads for a continuation of arts cultivation in schools, thwarting what she calls a “nation of robots.” Heartfelt thoughts from collegiate scholars like Bill Ayers and Deborah Meier lend a necessary urgency to the cause, as does education professor and MacArthur recipient Lisa Delpit, who remarks that “the arts allow us a lens to see gifts that may not be immediately evident.” The dedicated work of former professional dancer and artist Frances Lucerna and linguistic anthropologist Shirley Brice Heath offer prime examples of how the arts can be successfully integrated into school curriculums.
Uniformly written and passionately considered, the collection brims with ideas, memories and hope for creatively inspired students.