Elephants in the room

Warning: This posting may be short but it contains numerous mixed animal metaphors.

Lately, I feel a bit like the mouse being asked to bell the cat or the canary hired to go into the coal mine (or the monkey being sent up into space). Why? Because I have been asked repeatedly recently to identify “the elephant in the room” – the missing piece of curriculum, the most surprising faculty issue, or the problem with assessment. The people or organizations who ask these questions must know the answers, they must see the elephants too, or they wouldn’t pose those questions to me. But what is so dangerous about providing the answers that prevents them from engaging with the questions themselves? What are the consequences of facing head-on the questions of relevancy and sustainability. Is what we teach our (arts) students relevant and sustainable? Is the faculty teaching it relevant? How should we evaluate the curriculum? And the faculty who teach it?

And so, I get back on my soapbox to champion the idea that we should teach our students the importance of creativity, create environments that enable innovation rather than stymie it, and provide skills training that will help young artists sustain their lives and careers. Until we create the infrastructure to do so, ridding the room of elephants will be like….well…..herding cats.

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