Let’s say some school district, a big district, is putting together scripted lesson plans for the third grade, a program that is destined to grow up through all the grades. It is organized into 10 minute segments so that every teacher in the district can be at the same point at the same time — or within a day or so of one another. The stated reason for this is that there is a high percentage of transfers within the district every year, so this would allow students to transfer schools more easily.
Let’s also say that the plan is being put together by caring, local teachers, not some big corporate entity in (just say) Texas. But, the end result will be a script for each teacher with mandated compliance, leaving very little room for teacher creativity.
Now, let’s say, this big district comes to an arts organization and through them to a couple of poets and asks them to help in the drafting of an isolated poetry unit to be taught in April.
Say the poet in question is violently opposed to scripted anything, believes in teaching poetry across the year, curriculum and all content areas, and doesn’t approve of teaching poetry in isolated units. If the poet says, no, I won’t help script your lessons because I don’t like how you are doing this, does that benefit the kids? If the poet agrees to work within a system she doesn’t agree with philosophically, is that a betrayal of her own ideals?
How does one best work to keep poetry alive in schools as they become more and more systematized? Art is all about improvising — do we as artists improvise our way around the system or turn our backs? What if the result of turning our backs is that the kids are strapped into a curriculum with no room for improvisation?
What is the best benefit to the kids? We can’t meet them all outside of school, so we must work within the schools. But . . .