By John Brademas
On August 14, 1997, I was among those present in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C., when President Clinton and the First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, announced a White House Millennium Program in order, in the President's words, "to honor the past and to imagine the future." The Program, he said, "will guide and direct America's celebration of the millennium by showcasing the achievements that define us as a nation—our culture, our scholarship, our scientific exploration."
As Chairman, by appointment of President Clinton, of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, of which the First Lady is Honorary Chair, I was obviously gratified that with this announcement, the President and she had endorsed the principal recommendation of Creative America, the report to the President of our Committee, released earlier this year. In our report, we urged the President to "lead our country into a new century and the next millennium" through an initiative that would "involve all Americans in preserving our cultural heritage and in appreciating creativity through the arts and the humanities."
We recommended these major actions:
In describing our proposals for "Educating Youth for the Future," the President's Committee urged these steps:
The President's Committee also recommends "partnerships" to:
Of particular note, and in part inspired by the success over nearly two decades of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, the President's Committee calls for partnerships to "improve instruction in the arts and the humanities by encouraging colleges, universities and cultural organizations to cooperate with local school systems . . . [as well as to provide] incentives to college and university faculty to develop collaborations with school teachers, educational administrators, and artists".
As President Clinton said at the National Archives:
" . . . [T]o make this new Millennium our own . . . . [f]irst and most important, we are making education our children's first priority . . . ."
Teachers in the arts and the humanities need the time and resources to participate in professional development to enrich their own knowledge and to gain practical ideas for their classrooms. At the community level, innovative partnerships have formed among some universities, cultural institutions, and school districts. Yale University and the public schools of New Haven, Connecticut have worked in partnership since 1978 to strengthen teaching in the city's schools. The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute brings college faculty and school teachers together on an equal footing to develop new course material in the humanities and the sciences, and to discuss issues chosen by the teachers themselves.
The power of the arts and the humanities to develop creativity, help close the "opportunity gap," and prepare all children for productive futures is well documented in the Committee's report, Coming up Taller: Arts and Humanities Programs for Children and Youth at Risk. This study reveals the often heroic work that many arts, humanities and community organizations perform to serve at-risk youth. More public and private investment in these programs can provide creative alternatives to destructive behavior and divert some young people from gangs, drug use, crime and other anti-social behavior.
One sure way of achieving this objective is to encourage communities throughout the United States to establish the kind of partnerships pioneered by the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute.
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© 1998 by the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute