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The Lost Paragraphs of Arne Duncan

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There is no question that organizations receiving arts education grants from the United States Department of Education are quite grateful. That being said, considering the myriad of factors that keep a quality arts education at arm's length for far too many of America's children, a great, great deal more is warranted.

Many people wonder exactly what can be done, something that would have major impact, while avoiding running up an even larger tab at the USDOE.

There are things that can be done, and some of them can be implemented without much direct cost.

Still with me?

Last spring, U.S. Education Secretary, Arne Duncan gave a speech in Wasghinton D.C. about the value of arts education. It was a very good speech, but when you look at all the recent K-12 initiatives of the Obama administration, arts education is all but missing.

That brings me around to the Arne Duncan's "Lost Paragraphs."

The Honeymooners has its "Lost Episodes."

Bob Dylan has his Bootlegs.

The 1960 World Series has the Bing Crosby kinescopes.

Well, here are the "Lost Paragraphs" of Arne Duncan's speech on arts education.

Make no mistake: he did not write nor speak these paragraphs. I wrote them to illustrate what might be. it's an example of the type of policy actions by the USDOE that would make for a world of difference for in the lives of America's children.

For those who might say "if we do this for arts, we have to do this for every subject," I say in return: baloney. Just take a look at the emphasis on STEM subjects in Race to The Top.

Maybe there's still time for some revisions to The Obama Administration's Blueprint for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act...

Okay, here's the speech from April 9th, 2010, at the National Forum of The Arts Education Partnership.

The "Lost Paragraphs" appear in bold and italics:

April 9, 2010

The Well-Rounded Curriculum
Secretary Arne Duncan's Remarks at the Arts Education Partnership National Forum

If there is a message that I hope you will take away from today's conference it is this: The arts can no longer be treated as a frill. As First Lady Michelle Obama has said, "the arts are not just a nice thing to have or do if there is free time or if one can afford it... Paintings and poetry, music and design... they all define who we are as a people."

All of you know the history all too well. For decades, arts education has been treated as though it was the novice teacher at school, the last hired and first fired when times get tough. But President Obama, the First Lady, and I reject the notion that the arts, history, foreign languages, geography, and civics are ornamental offerings that can or should be cut from schools during a fiscal crunch. The truth is that, in the information age, a well-rounded curriculum is not a luxury but a necessity.

That is why I am excited to announce that we are instituting a new policy to help make my remarks today a reality across the United States. For too long the arts have been overwhelmed by other interests and issues, and we will no longer allow that to happen through any of our policies and programs at the USDOE.

Starting today, we will institute a policy that requires all funded programs at the USDOE to include a provision requiring that applicants and grantees certify that their programs will not negatively impact arts education. And what is more, we will ask them to indicate how programs in other areas will help to support arts education in each applicable school community.

For years we have required that certain programs are supplemental and do not supplant. Based on that precedent, we believe that this intervention can help to ensure that the curriculum will be expanded, not narrowed, and that arts education as part of a well rounded education will be advanced and expanded rather than diminished.

This provision will be incorporated into ESEA and across all programs going forward. I only wish that this had been done in time to be incorporated into the Race to the Top and i3 guidelines.

I am not going to sugarcoat the tough choices that many districts are facing this year. State and local school budgets are absolutely strained across the country. Many of you are fighting lonely battles to preserve funding for arts education. There is no getting around that fact -- and I applaud your commitment to fully educating America's children by engaging them in the arts.

At the same time, in challenge lies opportunity. As Rahm Emanuel has said, "you never want a serious crisis to go to waste." Now -- as we move forward with reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act -- is the time to rethink and strengthen arts education.

And I ask you to help build the national case for the importance of a well-rounded curriculum -- not just in the arts but in the humanities writ large.

Click here to read the remainder of Secretary Duncan's speech.

And, let's imagine for a moment that these were the lost paragraphs of Arne Duncan. More could have been accomplished through these paragraphs than all the arts education advocacy of the past decade...