A Night at the Casbah - A Belly Dance Gala - 15 July 2016
Viva Dallas Burlesque
All photography by me
I was honored to get to speak for The Bridge Breast Network at the Attorneys Serving the Community event. The Bridge Breast Network is a non-profit in Dallas that provides diagnostic and treatment services for women with breast health / breast cancer issues. The uninsured and underinsured women of Dallas county who need them are growing.
Started by breast surgeon Sally Knox, M.D., The Bridge Breast Network houses 10 women in an office who are turning donations into care ten fold. For every dollar donated, 10 dollars worth of care is provided. 95% of the donations go directly to the medical care. Not research. Not salaries. DIRECT CARE.
They're need for more help went up 76% last year while their donations received went down.
If you're looking for a charity to send your dollars to, please check this one out.
I'm here because they helped me.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO
For D Magazine
Photography by me
Story by Krista Nightengale
CLICK TO READ HERE
In May of 2011, faced with budgeting decisions, Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas vetoed his Legislature’s $689,000 appropriation for the State Arts Commission, calling it a matter of “fiscal responsibility”(Pogrebin). The devaluation of arts programs is something that has happened throughout the country with regularity since the late 1970’s. From 1982 to 2008, The National Endowment for the Arts reported a 23% drop in arts education offered to the nation’s school children (Rabkin 44). Considering the fact that the school system is one that serves virtually all children at some point, the idea that the arts are “expressive and affective, not cognitive or academic” has given the nation’s students a serious educational disadvantage (Rabkin 42). The lack of arts-based programs in education is harming children.
While it is generally accepted that those who have a natural inclination towards the arts are those organically suited for these types of classes, science has shown otherwise. In 2009, The Johns Hopkins University School of Education hosted their inaugural summit on Learning, Arts, and the Brain. This summit, with partnership from The Dana Foundation, was inspired from the university’s Neuro-Education Initiative. Over 300 educators, scientists, administrators, and more gathered to share their thoughts and researched statistics not to “debate whether children need the arts, but rather to explore how studying and practicing the arts might enhance creativity, cognition, and learning (Hardiman 3) .”
What was researched and discussed should be eye-opening for anyone involved with children, education, or art advocacy.
In order to understand how the brain processes education, the study of the brain, itself, was crucial. Michael Posner, Ph.D, from the University of Oregon, used the science of neuroimaging to first understand how the neurons in the brain work with each other when it comes to arts-based education. He found that the “practice of various art forms involves different sensory and motor areas in the brain” and that these art forms do engage different, distinct circuits within it (Hardiman 15). It is within these neural networks that the same pathways involved in learning executive control and attention control get exercised. What does that mean? It means that an arts-based class is also a class in attention and self control. Though further research needs to be done, it may not be too far of a jump (based on existing science) to see that there is a correlation between the defunding of arts in education starting in the late 1970’s and the increase of attention-related disorders in students seen since the 1980’s.
The realization that creative endeavors in education helps to sharpen the skills needed to pay continued attention, or have stronger control of self, is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg of knowledge found by doctors and researchers. In fact, it is this continual research that has shown that an arts education has solid benefits for the student and that “arts learning is strongly associated with higher levels of achievement, positive social and emotional development, and successful transitions into adulthood”(Rabkin 52). It is this information that should have those involved in education excited for the possibilities of the future considering there are large numbers of American children who are failing to finish high school. The thought process of the past - teaching to pass standardized testing, for example - is falling away to a new understanding about what parts create a complete education versus what does not.
In a controlled study of students conducted over four years, researchers Ellen Winner, Ph.D., (Boston University) and Gottfried Schlaug, M.D., Ph.D., (Harvard University) found arts-based programs help transfer the arts-learned skills through other disciplines. In just the first 15 months of the study, the findings were apparent: those who did receive arts education, in addition to their standardized expectations, showed changes occurred within what they called their “brain plasticity”. That means that the neural networks that are made to work or understand each artistic category are strengthened. Those encouraged networks, by default, strengthen all of the neural networks. In essence: an art-inclusive education has “profound effects on learning, memory, and comprehensive, creative thinking (Hardiman 4). This study was one of many that have been done to show that the physical change that takes place in the brain is paramount to how the humanities do more than just provide an outlet for children to play within. It is in these results of multiple studies conducted that participation in the arts has been associated with “improved cognitive, social, and behavioral outcomes in individuals across the lifespan” (Hanna 7).
All of this to say that science and research has proven time and again that engaging in the arts as a part of an educational path not only encourages the path to be completed, but that very completion is done better than it would be without any art at all.
This news does not surprise those who have known the relationship between the arts and their counterparts of math and science. What may come as a surprise is the research done with how an arts education touches those in different socioeconomic backgrounds.
Oftentimes, students who are in socioeconomically disadvantaged school districts have less access to arts-based programs. If the belief among policy-makers and their accountants continues to be that the arts are superficial and disposable, these very programs are usually up on the chopping block first. That thought process is, absolutely, counterproductive to what their goals for their students should be. Studies compiled by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Department of Health and Human Services found key information on why arts education in struggling districts is, in actuality, a great equalizer. In three to five year old children from lower socioeconomic status families, there were found to show “significant gains in nonverbal IQ, numeracy, and spatial cognition ” than those who were in a standard Head Start control group (Hanna 8). It was also found that children from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds did benefit with stronger language development, initiative, social relation, literacy, logic and mathematics than their counterparts without the humanities initiatives in their education (Hanna 8).
In adolescents - an age group that is often fueled with difficulty - studies showed that those low-income students who are “arts-engaged” were more likely than their peers not participating in any arts to “attend and do well in college, obtain employment, volunteer in their communities, and participate in the political process by voting” (Hanna 8). That same study also concluded that those from low-income backgrounds perform similarly to those students from higher-income backgrounds simply because the arts-integration works all parts of the brain and has been proven to grow overall intelligence. Beyond the school work, the arts have been shown to encourage more from the mind and the attached human follows suit with results. One 1999 study found that students who participated in arts demonstrated “greater use of complex language” and they were found to be four times more likely than their peers to have earned academic achievement recognition and three times more likely to have earned awards for attendance (Rabkin 42). When considering this information, it is important to also point out that the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas published information in 2012 that stated: “Children from lower socioeconomic households are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) more often than children from higher socioeconomic status households (Eisenberg).” One cannot help but wonder how many of these children are set up for failure simply because of denying a whole-mind education in favor of another line item on a spreadsheet.
In looking at the existing research and comparing the facts to the actions of those involved in policy and education, it is clear that there is still a disconnect. While there is a great amount of information available, it is not being translated or executed on by those who have the ability to do something about it. So, how does this information change the future of the education system and the children who pass through it? It is paramount to the endeavor that more information is gathered and shared. Those persons in positions of power must read, discuss, and consider this information with great regard to how it can encourage or discourage the future’s possibilities.
The world is changing rapidly and in ways that cannot be imagined so it is paramount to the survival and advancement of the populous to rethink how education happens. The current system of education was created too long ago to make sense in the world of today. Instead of segmenting generations, society’s evolution depends on a mass restructuring in how the future is taught. Overflowing with information and connectivity, the old-school assumptions about the human mind and its abilities just does not work anymore. The standards need to be raised and reworked to include the encouragement of creative thinking. Parents, teachers, administrators, art advocates - anyone who has a desire to secure a stronger future generation - take this information as a call to action. It is time for the population to move beyond compartmentalized ideals of which subject is more vital. Science has shown that the brain does not learn in segments so teaching that way is antiquated. It is necessary to quit the practice of teaching to minimal benchmarks. The time to overhaul how children are taught to pave a way for comprehensive, successful learning is now.
Eisenberg, John M. Center for Clinical Decisions and Communications Science at Baylor College of Medicine - Houston, TX: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adolescents: June 2012. Web.
Hanna, Gay: The Arts and Human Development: Framing a National Research Agenda for the Arts, Lifelong Learning, and Individual Well-Being: National Endowment for the Arts, 2011. Print.
Hardiman, Ed.D., Mariale; Magsamen, Susan; Mckhann M.D., Guy; Eilber, Janet: Neuroeducation: Learning, Arts and the Brain - Findings and Challenges for Educators and Researchers from the 2009 Johns Hopkins University Summit: Dana Press, 2009. 1-21. Print.
Pogrebin, Robin.. "As States Struggle, How Much for the Arts?." The New York Times. N.p., 30 Jul. 2011. Web.
Miller Ph.D., Scott: Why Arts Education Matters: Huffington Post, 2016. Web.
Rabkin, Nick and Hedberg Ph.D., E.C.: Arts Education in America: What the Declines Mean for Arts Participation: National Endowment for the Arts, 2011. (41-54).Print.
The meandering ramblings of a Dallas-based visual artist.