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>Culture wars continue in Australia – the arts under attack

>In an age when governments around the world are pump-priming their economies in a vain attempt to prove Keynes was right by splurging money on all sorts of failing businesses in order to avoid recession there is one group of rent-seeking non-producers who would normally expect to be the beneficiary of government largesse that has been conspicuously overlooked – the arts community.

The Yartz community, as it is commonly referred to here in Australia, has been a festering parasite on the wallets of Australian taxpayers for years.

As Andrew Bolt pointed out:

Film Finance Corporation boss Brian Rosen spends $70 million a year of taxpayers’ money on Australian films which barely get watched.

As well as How Baz blew our $80 million and Why only .1 per cent of our films make money.

Now comes a new blow for the Yartz community – arts subjects are being ‘ignored’ in the national curriculum currently being put together and the precious luvvies are up in arms – so they’ve created a lobby group to pressure the government into including the arts in the curriculum.

The Federal Government’s new national curriculum for schools is focused on the basics of education: English, maths, science, history, geography and languages.

The fact is that standards in the above subjects have fallen dramatically in the last couple of decades. One has to applaud the government for taking action.

But a new lobby group says the visual arts, drama, dance and music should also be included.

That’s right. We’ll watch movies, go to the theatre and generally dance and sing our way out of recession, as well as guarantee the future health of the nation.

The National Advocates for Arts Education (NAAE) is calling on the Federal Government to include the arts in the work of the National Curriculum Board and Early Years Learning Framework.

Ausdance’s Julie Dyson, who is a member of the NAAE, says sidelining subjects such as art and drama deprives students of essential skills for the 21st century.

Who knew that performance art was an essential skill for the 21st century? What about mime? Or yodeling? The mind boggles.

“If they’re not flagged in the national curriculum they don’t seem to have the weight and the credibility given to them by decision makers,” she said.

By ‘decision makers’ she means the general public.

“The arts contribute to literacy and numeracy in all sorts of ways that have been well researched and proven, so they have an instrumental effect on the curriculum, but they also have an intrinsic value in promoting innovation and creativity.”

I don’t know about you but my experience is that the more arty-farty the person the lower their literacy and numeracy skills are.

Both sides of the political divide claimed victory when the Senate passed the $28 billion funding bill, which included the national curriculum, on the final parliamentary sitting day of the year.

But Ms Dyson says after a meeting with politicians and arts advisors in Canberra, the group was told that subjects such as music, visual art, dance and drama would not be considered among the first two phases of the new curriculum.

“We were told fairly definitely by a number of political sources that although they might eventually appear in the national curriculum, this was certainly not on the immediate agenda,” she said.

The NAAE is planning a campaign to raise awareness about arts education, but the chair of the National Curriculum Board, Professor Barry McGaw, says the arts are still considered a key learning area in state and territory curricula, and therefore their status as an important part of a rounded education is assured.

He says it will be up to the new body, the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, which came into effect on January 1, to decide what subjects will be introduced and when.

“That authority has as its policy body the ministerial council, which is the Commonwealth, state and territory ministers, and if they collectively decide that they want to have more subjects come in, then they will come in,” Professor McGaw said.

But Ms Dyson says while she is confident the arts will eventually be included, any delay is a concern.

“We’re very anxious that they get to it pretty quickly, at least that they flag them in the planning process as something that is going to be part of the national curriculum down the track,” she said.

If dancing, singing, miming, acting, yodeling, writing or painting could lower CO2 emissions then the Yartz would be swimming in money.

There are a couple of comments at the ABC site that nicely sum up both sides of the argument.

From Merlin 23:

Hi G,

I have seven kids so I think I am pretty well placed to answer your query.

1. If any of my kids showed either an aptitude and/or preference for any of the arts then I would support them whole heartedly. The difference is I would fund thier support and not expect the government to do it for me. At the same time would educate them to be realistic about their aspirations.
2. This is not an argument about the arts being superfluous (although I admit my initial post may have given that impression). Its about priorities. As Dragon correctly pointed out there are not that many vacancies for artists at the moment. So like or not this comes down to the fundamentals of supply and demand.
3. I believe being honest with your kids about the realities of life is one of most important lessons that you can teach your kids. Prioritising arts funding at the expense of the basics – particularly given the global nature of the economic crisis simply does not make sense.

and from G:

1. I’m sorry, I don’t understand why you believe arts should be supported only by the individual – Do you believe that it is only the individual artist that benefits from the products of art? Is it not the case that the entire of humanity, for untold centuries, can benefit from art?
2. As I responded to dragon, the apparent dearth of vacancies has more to do with the availability of artists. An arts culture will not develop where there are no artists. You are confusing cause and effect.
3. The current economic situation is expected to be short term, i.e. a few years. Your children’s education now will affect them, and the rest of the country, for the rest of their lives. Which priority are you choosing?

The fundamental difference between them is not that the arts do not have a place in, or impact on, culture but that it should be government funded.

‘G’ makes one of the great comments of all time – “…the apparent dearth of vacancies has more to do with the availability of artists. An arts culture will not develop where there are no artists.”

There are not enough artists?

Seriously?

So let’s do a short thought experiment.

Let’s go to one extreme and imagine the result if the government funded anyone who wanted to be an artist and paid them a wage of, say, the average wage in Australia. How many school leavers would choose to be ‘artists’?

Tick tock, tick tock.

Obviously not everyone can be an artist even if the government is pissing taxpayer money up against the wall paying for it.

So who in the government then chooses how many extra leeches society needs hanging off it?

Was Monet government funded?

How about van Gogh?

Or Picasso?

Here’s one that was to show that they exist, and a great one at that – Sergei Eisenstein.

Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein (January 23, 1898 – February 11, 1948) was a revolutionary Soviet Russian film director and film theorist noted in particular for his silent films Strike, Battleship Potemkin and October, as well as historical epics Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible. His work vastly influenced early film makers owing to his innovative use of and writings about montage.

That it was a murderous dictatorship that paid Eisenstein a salary is probably lost on the general Yartzie.

When John Howard was in charge he copped the blame for the Culture Warriors making no progress.

Now that it’s Labor in power it must come as a shock to the system to be so comprehensively excluded.

(Nothing Follows)


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