April 17, 2012
Statement by Senator Tom Harkin On Arts Advocacy Day 2012
*As prepared for delivery*
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) delivered a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate yesterday in honor of Arts Advocacy Day. Below is the text of his remarks, as prepared for delivery.
“Mr. President, at a recent HELP Committee hearing on education and the economy, representatives of the business community told us that it’s not enough for our education system to produce graduates who can read, write, and do math. Employers need workers who can apply creativity, collaboration, and communication in their jobs to solve problems, produce ideas and make connections. These are the keys to innovation and success in the knowledge economy of the 21st century. Indeed, they are essential if we are to move our economy forward, create jobs, and ensure our national security. But Mr. President, I ask you: How can we produce graduates who are creative and collaborative if we don’t value the arts in our society and teach it in our schools?
“Today is Arts Advocacy Day. Advocates for the arts have come to Washington to remind their elected officials about the importance of federal investments in the arts. Why investment at the federal level? Because arts are essential to the fabric of our society. Arts education teaches critical skills – not just creativity, but also a rigorous and practical application of other skills. The arts make us think. The arts improve our quality of life. The arts provide an outlet for personal and political expression. Collectively, our arts express who we are as a nation. This very building, the United States Capitol, an enduring symbol of freedom and democracy, is an especially powerful example. Federal funds built this building. Federal funds also support vital programs such as the Iowa Arts Council Big Yellow School Bus grants, to pay the costs of busing students to museums or live orchestra concerts. For many students, this is the only opportunity they have to experience the arts.
“Mr. President, it is imperative that we continue to promote a society where all citizens are exposed to the arts and where all students—no matter their socioeconomic background, community, family, or ability—have equitable access to a high-quality, public, well-rounded education that includes the arts.
“Unfortunately, recent data from the Department of Education show that inequities persist. Schools serving the poorest students are less likely to offer instruction in the arts. For example, availability of music instruction in secondary schools on average has remained at about 90% for the last 10 years. Meanwhile, it has actually decreased, from 100% to 81% for schools with the highest poverty concentration—a 19 percentage point decrease.
“We all want our kids to succeed in school, and to be inspired in school. Many students find the motivation to learn through participation in the visual arts, drama, band, orchestra, choir, or dance. Every child should have the opportunity to do something that inspires and excites them, that teaches them creativity, collaboration, and communication, no matter their socio-economic status, their neighborhood, their local tax base. Research has shown that arts education improves not only children’s creativity, but also their ability to learn and be productive in school, as well as their self-confidence and social skills.
“Christine Dunn, a music teacher at Harlan Community Elementary School in Harlan, Iowa, wrote me a letter urging me to continue my support for the arts. She told me that without the arts, “our students may never be able to see, understand or express feelings, thoughts and ideas fully. I try to imagine a world without the arts and it looks very bleak. The arts give us creativity and the freedom to be ourselves.”
“Mr. President, today on the occasion of Arts Advocacy Day, I would like to recognize the outstanding advocacy of Iowans like Ms. Dunn, Barry Griswell, and Suku Radia-- and the wonderful contributions that Iowans have made to the arts throughout our nation’s history. I ask unanimous consent that this statement be entered into the record.”