A big hello to the world of blogging, and then down to business…

The purpose of this blog is (ostensibly) to put “out there” those little tit-bits of ideas that would never actually be considered (a) a substantial contribution to knowledge, or (b) fit for peer-reviewed publication. ┬áThese no longer seem to be limiting factors for anyone else’s publication behaviour, so I figured I should get on board with displaying my (un/semi) informed reckonings to the world. Most of what I write here will probably be fairly sensible and/or serious, but bear in mind that Music and Humour is one of my (growing) research areas, so I’ll try to keep it reasonably light.

So… down to business:

I was shocked and dismayed to be informed via the NAMHE grapevine about the (fairly hidden) details of the 16-19 Accountability Consultation, which ends tonight. In it are secreted yet more opportunities to write the performing arts out of British (or perhaps just English?) education; namely, to exclude them from the list of so-called “Facilitating subjects” that budding undergraduates will be encouraged to clamour for if they are entertaining a hope obtaining a place at a Russell Group university. Since the consultation should be public (a lot more public than it really was!), I’m sticking my neck out with my first post, and pasting contribution below:

”┬áThe identification of “facilitating subjects” in 12.1 N 20, (also in 4.13 -4.14) is misleading, politically driven, and will significantly damage the educational experiences of young people under the proposed changes. Specifically, the failure to recognise performing arts and a great many humanities subjects within this list is wholly inappropriate. The evidence on which the omission of (e.g.) Music, Drama/Theatre Studies, Religious Studies/Theology, etc., has been based (the Russell Group’s “Informed Choices Document”) is, itself, misleading, and misinterpreted. The University of Sheffield, for instance, has published guidance on “Acceptable A Level Subjects” (http://www.shef.ac.uk/undergraduate/policies/alevel) which lists 33 subjects (inc. Music, Theatre/Performance Studies, Anthropology, Religious Studies, Citizenship Studies) as valuable qualifications, and an additional list for further acceptable combinations, which includes yet more performing arts and humanities subjects.

To devalue the arts and humanities in this way will result in a massive reduction of participation levels in those subjects, as schools and colleges are forced to cut such departments in order to focus on the so-called “facilitating subjects”. Performing arts subjects will, of course, continue to be enjoyed by those who are lucky enough to (a) afford private tuition/experiences, or (b) attend schools whose intake is sufficiently academically able to allow for such “luxuries”. But cultural experience and participation is NOT a “luxury” – it is a valuable human right, that enables essential development by pupils through harbouring cross-curricula creativity and inter/intra-personal communication skills. In short, the performing arts – as they happen in schools – are not simply a means to a piece of paper: they are part of a vital formative process that produces the rounded, creative and socially adept individuals who will contribute (economically, and in every other way) to the future of the UK. Look to the work coming out of the AHRC Cultural Value projects for more reasons to rethink these changes.

I suspect that the people responsible for the creation of these proposals were brought up in very culturally rich and supportive environments (as I was), and so believe that a wealth of cultural experiences and opportunities – outside of a formal educational setting – will *just happen* for everybody. That assumption is woefully incorrect. I would urge those involved in the process to re-think these proposals, and to recognise the performing arts (and the full range of humanities) as subjects capable of “facilitating”: academic excellence; economic and social impact; and rich, fulfilled lives.”