Two Years of Arts in High School Urged : National Endowment Sees ‘Triple Jeopardy, Cultural Illiteracy’

Associated Press

The federal arts agency today recommended that high schools require students to complete two years of arts instruction to help keep American children from growing up “culturally illiterate.”

A report by the National Endowment for the Arts on the state of arts education in the United States set a national goal of making the arts an integral part of the school curriculum from kindergarten through the 12th grade.

“The problem is, basic arts education does not exist in the United States today,” said the endowment, an independent federal agency which underwrites a wide variety of artistic projects with a budget of $167 million.


Stiffer Requirements

“The arts are in triple jeopardy,” the endowment said in a report requested by Congress in 1985. “They are not viewed as serious; knowledge itself is not viewed as a prime educational objective, and those who determine school curricula do not agree on what arts education is.”

The endowment prescribed a series of steps, including stiffer curriculum requirements, teacher training, testing and evaluation, to provide all students--not just the gifted and talented--with a thorough education in their artistic heritage.

“Without knowledge and understanding of such supreme achievements, we are culturally illiterate,” the report said.

61% Culturally Insulated

It cited a survey conducted three years ago which found that 61% of American adults had not attended a live cultural performance or visited an art gallery or museum in the previous year.

Endowment Chairman Francis S. M. Hodsoll said he will lead a series of regional meetings with state and local arts and education officials around the country to “make a case for the study of the arts.”

Hodsoll acknowledged at a news conference that his emphasis on arts education “will be a problem in some school districts” that favor equipping students to compete in science and technology. But he reminded questioners that the arts are part of the basic school curriculum in high-tech Japan.

‘Masters, Not Servants’

Study of the arts, he said, “helps us to be masters, not servants, of technology.”

The endowment suggested doubling Education Secretary William J. Bennett’s proposal last December for one year of art and music history as graduation requirements under his model high school curriculum.

Instead, the endowment proposed requiring two years of art courses, or other approved courses that incorporate the arts, to obtain a high school diploma, and said high schools might consider extending the class day to seven periods to accommodate the new requirements.

High schools should also offer optional courses in each of the arts, such as dance, theater or films, for talented students who wish to pursue their interests beyond the required courses, the report said.

Currently, the endowment said, high school graduation requirements in 29 states include some form of the arts, but 13 of those states allow such courses as homemaking or industrial arts as substitutes and only nine require arts courses specifically.