Sunday, December 4, 2005

Arts in Education in the News

Two stories caught my eye in today's News Journal. Both touch on issues around the Arts in Education.

The state leaders from around the US gathered in Wilmington this weekend for the Council of State Governments meeting heard about the importance of Arts Education from Daniel H. Pink. Pink is the author of A Whole New Mind, a guide to navigating the shift from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. He told the group of the importance of teaching students to take advantage of their artistic and creative strengths as well their ability to read, write and calculate.
The challenge, he said, for state governments -- especially in an era of federal- and state-mandated academic accountability tests and graduation standards geared toward English, math and science mastery -- is to make room for and encourage students to take part in arts programs that hone those skills.
What pleased me most, though, was to see Delaware's Governor picking up on that theme.
Pink's arguments rang true to Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, who said she's been toying with the idea of adding an art requirement for high school graduation.

"It's not something I've really discussed with my staff yet," Minner said. "But I've always thought that the arts were important to be a well-rounded person."

Karen and I have been supporters for many years now of a choice school -- the Southern Delaware School of the Arts -- that was set up to use a focus on the arts to support the academic goals of students in first through eighth grades. Both of our girls are students there and Karen is a part-time teacher. The last few rounds of state testing I think have borne-out the efficacy of the school's approach; SDSA students are among the leaders in test scores.

The sports section of today's paper had a profile of Darnerien McCants, former Washington Redskins receiver and now a back-bencher for the Philadelphia Eagles. McCants also attended Delaware State University, in Dover. I became a Darnerien fan when he joined the 'Skins partly because he had been a Delawarean, partly because he was an underdog, and partly because when he did get a chance to play, he exceeded expectations.

Darnerien never did quite fit into the current plans of once and present Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs. I like to think that that is just because of the bigger-named receivers that have been brought in this season. He was released by the Redskins and picked up by the Eagles. His playing time for the Philadelphia team has also been limited.

And yet, as the newspaper profile makes clear, Darnerien McCants has more to do in life than just catch footballs.
When it was mentioned to Darnerien McCants that he's an athlete who also is an artist, the Eagles wide receiver smiled and shook his head.

"You got that backward," he said. "I'm an artist who's also an athlete. My football career could end at any time, but I'll be creating art as long as my hands and my brain are working. Art is forever."
He credits his teachers in the arts program at Delaware State with awakening the artist in him. And he's not limited to one medium, as his web site makes clear. Darnerien McCants paints, draws and sculpts, he writes poetry and music, and he sings.

I was interested to note, though, that it wasn't until he got to Delaware State that McCants found an arts program to engage his native talent. There'd been no support in the schools he attended growing up in Maryland. This is no knock on Maryland; I grew up there myself. I think it's more a function of the times than the state.

Now, McCants is looking ahead to the inevitable end of his football career.
McCants is thinking about his life after football, but he knows trying to make a living off his art would be difficult. So his goal is to become a high school art teacher and also coach at that level.
If he follows through on that idea, I'll be a fan of Darnerien McCants for a long long time.

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