What Would da Vinci Say?

On Tuesday November 8, all Seattle voters will get to vote for four open Seattle School Board positions in the general election. Four incumbents vs. four newcomers.

In case you didn’t know, the City of Seattle Office of Cultural affairs has published the 2011 Seattle School Board Candidate Survey on their website. This survey was put together by the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, the Seattle Arts Commission, and ArtsEd Washington. The survey consists of four questions that ask each candidate about their arts experiences growing up, what role arts education can play in closing the achievement/opportunity gap and how they would help shape school board policy for arts education.

I hadn’t heard about this survey until last Wednesday. Since then I have been asking a number of artist friends and parents if any of them had heard about it. So far, no one has.

If you care about the presence of art in our schools, go check it out

Kate Martin, incumbent Sherry Carr’s challenger, did not respond to the survey. Let’s hope that does not reflect her lack of interest in the subject.

For the candidates who did take the time to respond, their answers will give you an idea of where they stand in relation to getting/keeping the arts in schools. Take for example the responses made by Steve Sundquist (incumbent) and Marty McLaren, both vying for the District 6 seat.

Sundquist‘s answers are succinct and to the point, using words like research, policy, impact, performance, engagement, collaboration, understanding. I do not doubt he means well, but honestly, I think I’ve heard this same spiel before. It’s straight out of the What-To-Say-When-Someone-Asks-You-About-The-Arts Manual (2005 edition). In my experience these words tend to define the Talk but rarely lead to the Walk.
Sundquist states his goal is to ensure that “the district creates a plan to provide sequential, standards-based arts instruction to all of our students, and then successfully implements that plan across the district.”
Anyone who has seriously pursued the arts themselves will understand that implementing sequential, standards-based arts instruction is like asking engineers to build an oak tree. Better to plant some seeds and let them grow.
McLaren‘s language, on the other hand, includes words like imperative, intangible, emotional, enliven, strive, unimagined, beauty, joy (3 times). These are not words you hear used often in a political framework, but I like to hear them when the subject of the arts in education is being discussed. “Because so many artists and members of the community are eager to spread the arts to all students, there’s fertile ground for cultivating more arts activity … Community awareness and engagement are key.”
I’m right there with you, Marty. Not only that, she quotes Ellen Dissanayake, a scholar who has written extensively on the value of art from an evolutionary perspective. Someone did their homework.
Again,

find yourself a black pen

and vote.

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3 responses to “What Would da Vinci Say?

  1. I feel very good about having voted for Marty McLaren.

  2. Important info. Thanks for pointing this out!

  3. Thanks for the heads-up about the survey – I’ll go check it out. (And I agree with you about the difference between those two responses!)

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