Monday, June 28, 2010

Student Financial Aid reform- monetizing majors

The Chronicle of Higher Education has started a new blog about innovations in higher ed, and includes some big time names in the higher ed policy world.  And I read this and try to interpret larger policy issues about higher Ed for relevance to the arts higher ed world.

Here's one that touched off a thought- There has been an idea floating around for centuries about the concept of investing in students.  So an entity pays for (as an investment) a student's education, and that student agrees to a garnishment on their wages for a set time to pay it off.  In the 1600's this was called "indentured servitude". 

The link above talks about how fine arts and history majors would not have as large a return on investment as say a business or engineering major. So bigger investments in "safer" majors, and perhaps smaller investments in acting majors.  But if you invested in Tom Hanks when he was at Cal State-Sacramento, HUGE return!

This thought is an interesting one, and while we pretty much do this (find me any alumni with student loans that DOESN'T feel like an indentured student), it once again raises the question of value and differentiating values in different fields of study. 

Are future earnings, the ONLY value of a bachelor degree?  Of course not. But that's the metric that gets tossed around ALOT. 

Student satisfaction changes as they see the degree they attained through the lens of years and experience.  How do we really measure what a degree is worth?  I can appreciate much of my music performance degree, and I recognize the parts that didn't help or were detrimental.  But how many of us can point to an exact metric of what their degree is worth?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Disruptive Innovation?

This is a great article on changing the language of Arts Fundraising-

" The problem is that art—especially contemporary art—is, among other things, a form of disruptive innovation. That is precisely what makes art attractive to today’s younger, enterprising benefactors. Moreover, art itself has been subjected to disruptive change. New technologies and globalisation are rapidly transforming not only the content of creative work, but also the modes of cultural participation that had remained more or less constant since the 19th century, until recently."

Are we training our artists to not only create disruptive innovation, but talk about it so that it reaches the audience that can help sustain it?  Institutions that safeguard our culture and heritage (Large, established symphony orchestras, for example) are important and necessary, but less than 3% of the musicians we graduate will find work this way.  How are we incorporating disruptive innovation for the remaining 97% so that they can continue their art in the world?

A final quote on this Friday afternoon-

"Arts advocates should also consider what students of political rhetoric have long accepted: that people aren’t always won over by cerebral arguments. They are moved to act by big ideas and deep emotions."

Are we teaching our students to find their big ideas and communicate their deep emotions?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Does it cost too much to be an educated person?

The Chronicle of Higher Education publishes both Higher Ed news and Opinion.  There's a debate brewing about how the value of a college degree is lessening.  With the cost of education rising (despite some folks arguing that the net tuition rate is lower due to the cost differential lowering.  I need to see more data before I concede that point), and the emphasis more and more being placed on the economic viability of an education, it would seem that for those students and family for whom college is a huge economic stretch, the school that can get you the job is the best school.

This begs the question, is it only the wealthy who can get a well rounded education?  Can only those who can afford to pay for a liberal arts degree with no direct economic advantage (other than the ability to expose young minds to the arts and sciences and critical thinking, and great ideas) get this kind of education?

Because as I dig into music and theatre conservatories and their curriculum, and how there is very little room for the liberal arts, I wonder are they just artistic trade schools?  And if they are, are they really doing a better job of educating our future artists for the world they will actually enter, and not the world artistic academia WISHES for (or is so out of date with, that they are educating students for a past reality), than their counterparts at universities with a stronger liberal arts core?

So do conservatories REALLY turn out more employable artists?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

More liberal in music education?

Great stuff here from the Huffington Post about recent articles defending the Liberal Arts Education by Michael Roth, President of Weslyan University in CT. What may be lacking in traditional music school study is the liberal arts. I think there's the assumption that if a Music Conservatory or school of Music is located within a larger university then the liberal arts are taken care of just fine.

But I think we need to go beyond that and strive to make the liberal arts offerings work with the standard music curriculum. Like the New England Conservatory's Liberal arts offerings. Make them relevant and interesting. Link the context of Beethoven's music to Napoleon's wars.

Being close to the Liberal Arts isn't enough to make sure musicians are reaping the benefits. Students come to school to be guided and to learn. (There's a whole other blog post about the student who feels 'entitled' to a degree just for showing up, I'll write it eventually). One possible solution to improving the way we educate musicians is to really look closely at the non-music classes we're requiring students to take so that they have a degree, and not just a performer's certificate.

The context needs to be there. Because understanding how the arts fit in society and what environment led to their creation is crucial to keeping the arts relevant to our current society and environment now.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Arts courses crucial to students' success :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Commentary

Just wanted to throw this up here- with a couple of thoughts-

Our society likes the arts. Sales of Gibson guitars are at an all time high. Personal participation in creative activities is growing (writing, creating video/audio content for the web, Game design, theatre companies, music groups, etc). How do children even know what art is? And shouldn't art be a core subject as well?

Arts courses crucial to students' success :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Commentary

The Core Standards initiative has detailed their core standards for all K-12 students as to what should be taught and learned by every public school- from their website:

"These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs."

So we need to connect the two. Right now the Core Standards Initiative focuses on reading and math, but they will expand. For there to be a society that welcomes the artists we are currently training, society needs to place as much emphasis on the arts and make them part of the "untouchable" part of the day. In other words, we need arts to be seen as vital as reading and math because of the intrinsic value and transformational nature of the arts. And not let them become extras to be cut.

So what are we training our college musicians for? Well we need to absolutely train them to be advocates, for themselves, for their art, and for society to value art.