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Teacher as Public Enemy # 1, a Response

Teacher as Public Enemy # 1, a Response

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The Teacher as Public Enemy # 1, a Response: New Approaches to Art Education in these most Uncivil Times Acceptance speech given on the occasion of receiving the United States Society for Education through Art (USSEA) 2011 National Ziegfeld Award, March 20, 2011

Elizabeth M. Delacruz, Ph. D. Professor of Art Education Editor, Visual Arts Research journal University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign edelacru@illinois.edu

The Teacher as Public Enemy # 1, a Response: New Approaches to Art Education in these most Uncivil Times Acceptance speech given on the occasion of receiving the United States Society for Education through Art (USSEA) 2011 National Ziegfeld Award, March 20, 2011

Elizabeth M. Delacruz, Ph. D. Professor of Art Education Editor, Visual Arts Research journal University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign edelacru@illinois.edu

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Categories:Types, Speeches
Published by: Elizabeth Manley Delacruz on Mar 21, 2011
Copyright:Public Domain

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The Teacher as Public Enemy # 1, a Response:New Approaches to Art Education in these most Uncivil TimesAcceptance speech given on the occasion of receiving the United States Society for Education through Art (USSEA) 2011 National Ziegfeld Award, March 20, 2011Elizabeth M. Delacruz, Ph. D.Professor of Art EducationEditor,
Visual Arts Research
journalUniversity of Illinois, Urbana-Champaignedelacru@illinois.eduThank you for this incredible award, and to my good friend Alice Arnold, thank you for nominating me. I also want to thank Laura Chapman, who has long been an inspiration tome. I begin with a heartfelt prayer for the people of Japan.I want to use my time today to comment on recent events in public education in the US,and to offer my insights about how we might respond as a community of art educators.Public education today is mired in controversy… fraught with well-orchestrated attackson teachers at every level, from Head Start to higher education. As pointed out by leadingeducational theorists Henry Giroux and Diane Ravitch, under the guise of fiscalresponsibility, powerful interests in this country have been able to convince large sectorsof the public that educators (pre-k through higher education) and young people are nowthe enemy within, a drain on resources, expendable, untrustworthy and undeserving of public support. These attacks that have little to do with genuine accountability,educational excellence, or fiscal responsibility, and everything to do with furthering thepersonal fortunes and political agendas of the already obscenely rich and powerful.Media scholar and cultural critic Naomi Klein and many others observe, these are also
 
attacks on women, who do the bulk of teaching and care giving in this country, and onour children, our most precious “commodity”. As third wave feminist scholar andcofounder of the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership
 
Naomi Wolf observes, all of this is taking place through the artifice and hype of what she identifies as
fake patriotism
,
fake democracy
, and
fake crisis
.Harry Boyte, civil rights activist and Director of the Hubert Humphrey Institute of PublicAffairs at the University of Minnesota, observes that US schools in towns across Americawere once vibrant places for community gatherings, town hall meetings, adult education,and social events for all sorts of people. Today, far too many of our schools aredilapidated, locked down, inhospitable, and in neighborhoods serving poor and minoritycommunities, outright dangerous. I am reminded of the investigative reporting andpoignant case studies written by journalist Jonathon Kozol in his book 
SavageInequalities
. Kozol provides a biting critique and historical analysis of the inherentinjustice of municipal, state, and federal tax and funding policies that gave rise to theshocking conditions of education and community life in the poorest and most raciallysegregated neighborhoods of East St. Louis, Washington DC, Chicago, New York City,and elsewhere. Today, 20 years later, these injustices persist throughout the nation.The orchestrated erosion of support for our public school sector in the past decade, inparticular, is without shame. And the more recent Obama/Duncan administration'smisguided initiatives, including “Race to the Top”, championing of mandate-free publiclyfunded charter schools, and this administration’s unchallenged reliance on anoutrageously expensive standardized testing system are equally troubling. As LauraChapman noted to me in a recent email, we are witnessing a triumph of econometricthinking over all other frames for addressing today’s complex issues. These programsmeasure and reward or punish teachers and schools in what Laura referred to as a “value-added system”, and what Diane Ravitch finds to be a pernicious and punitive system thatplaces all bets on student standardized math and reading test scores to the detriment of other forms of learning that should be taking place in schools–science, social studies,history, literature, and the arts. Moreover, as Ravitch and others point out, despite
 
empirical evidence to the contrary that for-profit corporations and publicly funded charter schools can do a better job of educating our failing students, this thinking persists. Publicschool administrators, people who really should know better, are either silent, or buying-in wholesale. I note the lone dissenting voice of Philadelphia Schools
 
SuperintendentArlene Ackerman, who wrote the in the Washington Post in October 2010 the following:The truth is our public schools have been asked not only to educate children butalso to solve many of the ills that the larger society either cannot or will not fix. Iam speaking of issues directly related to poverty -- like hunger, violence,homelessness, and unchecked childhood diseases. In spite of these challenges,there are thousands of dedicated and committed educators who are working hardto make access to a quality education for all children who attend public schools areality.What our K-12 colleagues may not know, but we in this room are fully aware of, thehigher education sector is also under attack, with concerted and successful efforts toprivatize higher education; abolish the tenure system; deny educators their rights toacademic freedom, due process, health care, and retirement benefits; to transfer theteaching of our courses to armies of underpaid part-time adjuncts; and to convert thepublic higher education enterprise in the US into a market-driven cash-commoditylimited-liability venture. Despite my own privileged position in the academy, I mustadmit, I too often find this environment brutal and demoralizing.At the same time, I would add to this depressing observation my belief that art educatorsin post-secondary institutions now need to champion, support, mentor, and collaboratewith local k-12 teachers in and around our communities, as –together–we refine our owntools, strategies, and resources for developing reasoned and persuasive political speech,and for tapping into influential power structures at the local and state levels. This is avery grass roots endeavor, fraught with difficulties and setbacks. But we are not withoutour own resources and devices. We have our vote, our voice, our intellectual skills, our compassion, and each other in our collective endeavors to inform and shape the public

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Beth Burkhauser added this note
Thank you for this statement! Our Interdependence Hexagon Project is designed as vehicle for Framework #4 by asking teachers for evidence of students' awareness and engagement - through visual art - interlinking hexagons!. Go to www.interdependencedaynepa.org. Deadline June 30. Send us you proof - hard art or digital - we'll show the world! Your statement will be on the website. Thank you!
Dear readers, Please use this in any way that supports public school teachers in your state. Elizabeth
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