NASAA Notes: February 2008


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Jonathan Katz

February issue
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February 29, 2008

Executive Director's Column

I want to draw your attention to a new national survey of 1,000 likely voters that indicates great potential support for candidates who advocate arts education in connection with cultivating the imagination and stimulating innovation. The demonstration that a clear path to public value can be established by connecting the experience of arts learning to the cognitive capacity of the imagination to the educational outcome of innovation is important news, especially for those of us who have experienced frustration with the low value the general public often ascribes to the terms “arts” and “culture,” as well as its constantly surprising lack of connection between the arts and “creativity.” Linking an education in and through the arts with the development of the imagination brings together constituencies who value educational advancement for a 21st century environment, economic competitiveness, quality of life, and civic engagement.

The Imagine Nation

The survey – commissioned by the Arts Education Partnership and conducted by Lake Research Partners – identifies an “imagine nation” constituency: 30% of American voters who believe that “incorporating building the capacities of the imagination into core courses is extremely critical.” That is, they agreed at 10, on a 1-10 scale. The survey also shows that the “imagine nation” reflects the perceptions of majorities of likely voters who reject the idea that basics and technology alone prepare students for success, and believe that the arts make a major contribution to developing the imagination, learning to set goals, respecting multiple values and perspectives, and participating in a group or being a team player. Significantly, more than half (54%) of the core “imagination” constituency is made up of swing voters who self-identify as neither a strong Republican nor a strong Democrat.

Central Findings

  • Almost nine in ten voters (89%) say that using the imagination is important to innovation and one’s success in a global knowledge-based economy and essential to success in the 21st Century.
  • 50% of American voters believe that, when compared to other nations, America devotes less attention to developing the imagination and innovation. Most voters do not believe these skills are being taught very well
  • 88% of respondents indicated that an education in and through the arts is essential to cultivating the imagination.
  • 62% of voters strongly believe that building capacities of the imagination that lead to innovation is just as important as the “so called” basics for all students in the classroom and that an education in and through the arts helps to substantiate imaginative learning (91%) and should be considered a part of the basics.
  • 56% of voters say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who came out in support of more funding.
  • The electorate is even more willing to punish a candidate who votes to cut funding for building capacities of the imagination. 57% of voters say they would be less likely to vote for such a candidate, and 36% percent of voters say they would be much less likely.


According to a national poll released in November 2007 by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a majority of survey respondents believe that schools need to do a better job of keeping up with changing educational needs. This mirrors earlier findings released by the Conference Board in 2006 citing that nearly three-fourths of business leaders surveyed ranked “creativity/innovation as among the top five applied skills projected to increase in importance for future graduates.” Building on these ideas, the new “imagine nation” research provides additional insight into how Americans think imagination and innovation should be cultivated by schools.

The “imagine nation” initiative of the Arts Education Partnership (AEP) has convened a broad coalition of national, state and local organizations to restore imagination and innovation as key outcomes of learning. Support has been provided by the National Education Association (NEA), the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), and NAMM, the International Music Products Association. Support for site development work is provided by The George Gund Foundation. AEP receives basic funding from the U.S. Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Arts, and is co-managed by NASAA and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

How to Act on this Information

Here are some suggestions:

  • Participate in NASAA’s upcoming Web Seminar for a briefing on this research and a discussion of its advocacy implications. (See the “Resources” section of NOTES for more details.)
  • Include an article in your next newsletter about the “imagine nation” initiative and the recent national poll it released.
  • Provide an article on this initiative and survey to business, arts, civic, education and other networks in your state.
  • Start a special section on your website or with a statewide arts education partner devoted to the “imagine nation” or your “state of imagination.” Include information from the national survey and website. Enlist logos from business, arts, civic, education and other groups as part of your own “growing coalition.” Solicit quotes from spokespersons from these groups and list them as “What important leaders are saying about the “imagine nation ” or your “state of imagination.”
  • Include a presentation on this initiative and the survey in the agenda of your next statewide meeting.
  • At future speaking engagements, take the opportunity to emphasize the importance of developing skills of the imagination in public education.
  • Identify speakers on this topic for the meetings of other groups suggested above.
  • Share information on your activities with the Arts Education Partnership via the Web site.

More Information

I highly recommend the report and resource list entitled Moving America’s Children Beyond Average: Imagination and the 21s Century Education, which you can locate by clicking on “resources” at

I’m also pleased to note that NASAA and AEP have produced a second printing of Critical Evidence: How the ARTS Benefit Student Achievement. Bulk rates are purposefully low in response to high demand for meetings and statewide conferences. For information, visit here.

As always, I’m interested in your comments, questions and ideas.

In this Issue

Legislative Update

Executive Director's Column

Did You Know?

Frequently Asked Questions




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