Human beings working together in a community have the potential to shift systems.
Equitable and inclusive policies manifest when more than one voice at the table is invited to change the ecosystem of dance education. With only 7% of students in the United States participating in dance at their school, there is a whole lot of work to be done.
In California, the recent passage of SB916 TADA! (Theatre and Dance Act), signed by Governor Brown in 2016, as well as other policy wins on behalf of arts education, exemplify that as a group we have the persistence, will, and courage to create positive change for arts education at the micro- and macro-level. Stakeholders who came together to make TADA! a reality included the California Alliance for Arts Education, the four professional arts education organizations (California Dance Education Association, California Music Education Association, California Educational Theatre Association, California Art Educators Association), California Federation of Teachers, California Teachers Association, and numerous individuals like yourself who wrote letters and made phone calls championing TADA!.
All voices in support of dance education are needed at this critical time as the reinstatement of the dance teaching credential is on the horizon.
These voices are even more critical as the state department of education revises the California visual and performing arts standards and the corresponding framework, which will roll out in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Statewide leadership, through individuals committed to dance access for all children, is imperative to reverse the dance and equity gap in California where only 2% of students are enrolled in a dance course (CA Arts Education Data Project, 2016-17).
From Individual to Collective Action
Dance advocacy begins in your dance teaching practice – tell people about what you do, why you do it, and the impact of dance on your students’ lives. Working with other teachers, the administration, or the custodial staff at your dance site to find a better dance space for your students is dance advocacy. A bi-annual dance newsletter for the parents of your students is dance advocacy. Asking your employer to support your professional development is dance advocacy. Convening your dance education colleagues in a learning community is dance advocacy. Communicating the value of dance education to a school board member through a letter or in person is dance advocacy. Each of these actions has the potential to shift hearts and minds, and policies in your school setting.
Advocating alone is isolating and ineffective, so it is imperative to join in community with others who share your core beliefs and values.
Does your city have and arts council or commission? If so, find out what they are doing, set up a meeting, and introduce yourself to the director. Share the work you are doing in your teaching setting. If you work in California, the county offices of education have prioritized arts education for their school districts. Find out who your county regional lead is and contact them to get involved with efforts in your region.
Continue to share your work with others, about the importance of arts to keeping students engaged in school, or about dance bringing together body, mind & spirit in action. Keep doing your excellent work AND start talking about it. People often base decisions on emotion—share what works: help them make decisions based on hope rather than fear.
The Rights of Students to Equity in Arts Learning
If you are part of a California organization or school district, consider encouraging your administrators to adopt the Declaration of the Rights of Students to Equity in Arts Learning. Stating that all children deserve to have access to high-quality arts education, this Declaration asks for the dedication of appropriate resources to implement strategic arts plans that allow ALL students to participate in visual and performing arts learning. It also asks for a commitment to promoting arts learning that honors all cultures and languages by developing staff capacities, identifying community resources and creating opportunities for students to contribute to the design of their education. Find out more through Create CA.
Powerful Allies in Dance Advocacy
Stay informed about ongoing dance advocacy and policy efforts and initiatives by visiting this page, and connecting to these regional and national organizations that advocate for children and arts education. Take action on current and urgent issues here.
- Alameda County Office of Education Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership
- Berkeley Cultural Trust
- Berkeley Arts Education Steering Committee
- California Alliance for Arts Education
- California County Superintendents Educational Services Association Arts Initiative
- California Dance Education Association