Wisconsin Arts Task Force Calls For Integrated Curriculum

Bold Action Plan Looks to “Harvest” Creativity of Young People

by Deidre Green, age 17

It seems that Governor Doyle and other state officials are reading their copies of the Simpson Street Free Press. After many recent editorials in this newspaper, and elsewhere, there is an effort underway in Wisconsin to increase the arts in our schools.

As all regular readers of the Free Press know, we wholeheartedly agree. The final report and action plan of the Wisconsin Task Force on Arts and Creativity in Education recommended ongoing investment in “the creative and artistic energy of Wisconsin students” through their education.

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State schools Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster and Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton appointed the 36-member task force in March 2008. The task force examined policies in place at the state level, as well as local practices. The panel’s work is meant to gage the effect on the range and availability of arts education opportunities in Wisconsin.
“Every child has tremendous creative capacity; it is our responsibility to develop and harvest it,” Lawton said in a recent press release.
The action plan suggested by the task force focuses on four main areas. The first three areas, which deal with strengthening arts and education in Wisconsin, are Legislative and State policy, creativity in the classroom, and community involvement.
A fourth area addressed by the panel’s action plan is the state’s business community and creative economy. These recommendations focus on engaging the business community in the arts in order to spur business growth and economic development. This part of the plan demonstrates the task force’s understanding that the arts and other cultural activities can be linked to broad-scale skills.
“Wisconsin’s competitive edge in this global economy will be a workforce well-prepared to think boldly and work innovatively, with the risk-taking confidence of an entrepreneur,” Lawton says.
The task force recommendations call for specific changes and improvements in certain areas. One recommendation includes ensuring that every Wisconsin school uses an interdisciplinary curriculum that systematically integrates creativity development into class work. Another includes continuing “outreach to communities, businesses, and educational and arts organizations to foster partnerships and collaboration that strengthen arts education and the creative potential in all students,” according to the group’s press release.
Schools superintendents Libby Burmaster, endorsed the panel’s recommendations. “All students can develop their creative capacities if they have access to rich learning opportunities in environments that nurture and support their creative development,” Burmaster said.

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Like many reporters at this newspaper, I have written before about why I think the arts in schools is an important idea. These are not just extracurriculars that should fall first in tough budget years. Not all kids learn in the same way. Harvesting new and creative ways to teach is beneficial to many students.
Using the arts in academic curriculum only makes sense. Students who may not learn as well using more traditional classroom learning styles will see enhanced opportunities to access knowledge with more integrated curriculum. For some students the arts represent a key to the door of learning. This key can unlock doors to learning and understanding for many Wisconsin kids.
But that’s not all. Students who are inspired to learn through the arts aren’t the only ones who benefit. The entire student body, in fact the entire community benefits. Go to www.simpsonsreetfreepress.org and read last month’s editorial by Free Press writer Claire Miller. You’ll see exactly what I mean. Art in its many forms—music, poetry, creative writing, theater, and visual arts help young people to think in different ways. The arts help young people express things they often struggle to explain.
I commend the Wisconsin Task Force on Arts and Creativity in Education for their efforts. We must never let access to the arts, and art in our schools become just a privilege. I see access to the arts as a right—for all of us.
As such, arts education should be part of every young person’s curriculum.