I have recently attended some exciting meetings related to arts education in California. In preparation for these meetings, I've taken the opportunity to read through the University of California's "a-g" requirements in Visual and Performing Arts (VPA). For those of you unfamiliar with the a-g requirements, they are a series of courses required to be eligible for admission to UC and the California State University system. "F" (ironically) is Visual and Performing Arts: one year-long course in dance, drama/theatre, music or visual art. (A-E are history, English, math, lab science, and language; G is an elective.)
Being UC, of course, we have policies.
- Visual Art: Examples of acceptable courses (italics crucial--one must wear pince-nez) include painting, drawing, sculpture, art photography, printmaking, video/film production as an art form, contemporary media, ceramics, and art history. Examples of unacceptable courses include craft courses, mechanical drafting, web page development, yearbook, and photography offered as photojournalism (i.e., as a component of yearbook or school newspaper publication).
- Drama: Acceptable courses include acting, directing, dramaturgy, theory... Unacceptable courses include speech, debate, or courses that require students to perform occasional skits.
Also excluded are ballroom dancing and musical groups that perform for competitive field events. (I don't know which word is more ridiculous--competitive or field--but together they're gorgeous.) And heaven forfend that these policies are not clear enough, there are policy clarifications.
"Technology courses, visual and performing arts courses that utilize technology must focus primarily on arts content. If the technology (i.e. software, equipment) is used as a tool of artistic expression, as a paintbrush would be used in a painting course, and all other component strands are adequately met, then such courses are acceptable. If the technology/software is so complex that the primary concern becomes learning the technology, then the course will not be approved to meet the requirement."
In the FAQs section, the question is asked, Why is it so difficult to get UC approval for arts courses that focus on design? Answer: "Often, design type courses (architectural, graphic, floral, interior, fashion, et cetera) focus more on the technical aspects of these disciplies, rather than the art."
So today I stand up for the H-Z curriculum, those courses where you actually get to do something, possibly useful and even more possibly fun. Remind me during my next recruitment for an open position whether I should hire the ace web page developer who was a champion debater in high school and possesses keen architectural design skills or the student who took dramaturgy and ceramics. It's time for a change.