Words… Words… Wonderful Words

To me, words are quite wonderful. Some are even paintings in the sense that you look at the words and get an immediate visual. So the sadness and unintended consequences conveyed by the words “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) are quite visceral to me. Now Congress is transforming this NCLB legislation into the inspirational “Every Child Achieves” Act. That to me is a more promising outcome…and hopefully it’s not just words.

Another word that happily still seems to be alive in word and deed is “bipartisan.” That word has been so missing in action in Washington that it was striking that the U.S. Senate approved its reauthorization version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) by a wide margin of 81-17. It’s not a done deal of course, until both houses reconcile their differences. But one thing is clear…on both sides of the aisle there appears to be agreement that the misguided “testing” word is in for an overhaul, giving education reform back to the states. Imagine the glee across the nation when 13 years of “testing” to a national standard is gone. As if there really could be a one-size-fits-all way to teach children.

One of the key elements of the senate version of the bill is the reaffirmation of the arts as a core curriculum subject. That is to say simply, the arts are not a frill but are essential to a comprehensive education.  Not my words, but those of U.S. Education Commissioner Arne Duncan: “A well-rounded education is simply too vital to our students’ success to let the teaching of the arts and humanities erode.” It’s not just about keeping alive past generations of creativity. It’s also about nurturing future imagination.  But don’t take my word for it. Ask Albert Einstein. He said, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” He got that one right!

Photo: Teaching artist Joe Mullins creates fish prints with students at Longfellow Middle School in Mt. Vernon

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