May 12, 2009

Should artists know something about money?

It's cringing time for this union activist: Teaching is an art, not a business wrote Hans, commenting this evening on a story about a judicial mandate prohibiting a UTLA one-day strike this Friday. That statement is irrelevant in the specific context (teacher layoffs), is a false dichotomy, and is wrong-headed in other ways. Let's start with the literal claim that art is incompatible with business. The daughter of a friend and colleague went to SMU on a dance scholarship. She was smart and after a minor injury decided to get some business training and is now an administrator in an art-related New York nonprofit. Artists and non-profits need people who are passionate about art and can also manage money (ask members of the Florida Orchestra, which I hear is surviving today in this economy because its new executive director is very competent).

Or to take another example, there's a wonderful segment of Stuart Math's documentary on desegregation in Shaker Heights, Ohio, where one of the old-time activists describes a post-WW2 meeting of residents who were trying to figure out how to create a stable housing market, and a business owner said, "You know, we can be liberal and effective, too."  And they were, running a neighbor-managed real-estate outfit that was crucial in maintaining a stable, desegregated, prosperous community.

So much for the claim that art can't be business and warm-hearted liberals can't think in terms of getting stuff done. But the whole premise is wrong; I don't think teaching is an art. You can make a good argument that teaching is a craft, but there has to be solid practice at the bottom of it. In addition, anyone who is skeptical of the value of high-stakest testing, as I am, has to have something that's just a tad, a teeny, a tiny bit more astute than a statement that screams, "Just let me do what I want when I'm paid with the public purse." That's nuts, both philosophically and politically.

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Posted in Education policy on May 12, 2009 11:03 PM |