"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mike Pence, His Artist Wife, and the Death of Art in Indiana Schools

In an earlier version of this piece, I mistakenly implied that the Indy Star's Scott Elliott was involved in the discussion with Glenda Ritz, Kloth, and Matt Tully.  Here is what Scott has said about his role in the event:

"I attended and watched part of the conversation with Ritz, Tully, Kloth and others referenced here but was not in any way a participant. This seems to suggest I was one of the panelists and made comments about arts education. I didn't."

By now, most teachers in Indiana know that Mike Pence’s wife Karen is a former art teacher in the public schools. But living in the Strict Father world* dictated by her husband, Pence’s wife hasn’t publicly spoken about the corporatization of Indiana education (which is merely another example of abuse against women—in this case, teachers—and children) and has remained silent about how school privatization and tax slashing (which her husband is calling for more of) detrimentally affect school art in the Hoosier state.

Those who have mentioned the arts have been mouthpieces for school privatization, as was the case a few weeks ago when Indiana supt. of public education Glenda Ritz took the stage to discuss the arts with corporate school cheerleaders Jason Kloth, Indy mayor Ballard’s deputy of education, and the Indy Star’s Matt Tully.

What does Tully know about the arts?  Not much. Even though he is the product of teacher parents and his father is a sculptor, Kloth makes his living promoting temporary teachers and charter school leaders in Indianapolis, while art funding to real public schools is in dismal shape. 

In Indiana, the schools still able to offer art programs have been forced to take the route of pseudo-instruction.  In 2011, for example, New Albany schools replaced all of their elementary art and music teachers with teaching assistants who use “scripted one size fit's all art activities.” Across the board in Indiana public schools, students who enroll in a music course aren’t allowed to take a visual arts class, too.  Even worse, five years ago the Metropolitan School District of Warren Township in Marion County completely cut Middle School art programs, and elementary kids are too busy cramming for tests to do much with their creativity, as their art teachers quickly disappear. 

Clyde Caw, the publisher of the Indiana Art Education Advocacy Action Blog and a member of ACE (Artists for Creative Expression), says this in reference to art funding cuts in Indiana schools: “I think we can safely assume that these cuts are all permanent since there have been no new revenue increases and there have actually been further cuts since 2008.”

In his own research, Gaw lists 54 examples of art slashing in public schools in Indiana because of no funding (I have posted his research below, and it is frightening).

It is sad news, indeed.  For one, when I was younger I was well on my way to prison or the grave, when an English teacher named Mark Wright taught me how to play Jimi Hendrix guitar solos and to write poetry, and it literally saved my life.  All kids need all types of art, period.  As new Center for Disease Control research notes the correlation between ADHD and high-stake testing, it is important to realize that art therapy, alongside the work of school psychologists, has bettered the lives and behaviors of kids with ADHD, as Darryl Christian, among others, has noted (see Art Therapy and Clinical Neuroscience).** Don’t let the power-that-be fool you.  If society’s leaders were really concerned about guns in schools, they would set up an environment where easels could take the place of weapons, not a cop in every kindergarten. 

Gaw isn’t too happy about the situation either: “We have known for decades now the importance of multisensory learning experience.  We have scientific evidence that it is critical to the learning experience.....From a policy perspective, that evidence has been ignored.”

The evidence has been ignored because school reform, in its present state, is all about stealing taxpayer money.  While Silicon Valley appreciates the benefits of teaching arts to children, Mike Pence is all about creating the next low-paid workforce for the billionaires in our midst and is incapable or unwilling to realize that art does something that money can’t; it reminds us we are alive and dying.  In their love of the almighty dollar, the wealthy and their lapdog supporters like Pence lack inner resources, and they share more traits with psychopaths (as psychologist Robert Hare, a leading researcher on psychopaths has noted) than they do artists.  Their creativity is limited to “creative destruction,” funneling money up to the wealthy by destroying society in the process.  They are dangerous for our kids, our teachers, and our communities, and Karen Pence needs to come out and say this.


Indiana Art Education Advocate Clyde Gaw’s List of Known Art Program Cuts and Marginalized Art Programs so Far.

* The Indiana D.O.E. Website is Two Years Old. This list was compiled with data from the D.O.E. and reports from artists in schools across the state. There may have been some changes to the status of specific situations, but it does highlight a vast problem that is very much a reality in the Indiana public schools.

1. Metropolitan School District of Warren Township (Marion County) completely cut Middle School art programs 5 years ago. NO plans to reinstitute art education in the foreseeable future.

2. Wayne Township students who are in foreign language classes cannot take art, and students who did not pass either part of ISTEP cannot take art.

3. In Madison, Indiana, the art/music program was cut in half. One teacher travels to 6 buildings.

4. Students at Prairie Heights Middle School in band or choir cannot take art.

5. Students at Mt. Vernon Middle School, in band and choir cannot take art.

6. In Mt. Pleasant Township, Yorktown elementary students have art every 2 weeks.

7. West Washington Schools in Campbellsburg, IN have art courses taught by non-certified staff in grades K – 2 and no art at all in grades 4 – 6.

8. Northwestern Consolidated Schools in Shelby County plan to have an assistant run the art program at the elementary and a classroom teacher run the art program in the middle school.

9. At Willow Creek Middle School in Portage, 6th graders do not have art.

10. In Penn Harris-Madison Schools, there are no elementary art teachers. If an 8th grade student is in band, orchestra, or choir they have no opportunity to take art.

11. Floyd Central and Highland Hills Middle School have students take art in 7th and 8th grade and their ISTEP scores are among the best in Indiana.

12. In Crown Point, Indiana, 6th, 7th and 8th grade students in band and choir can’t take art classes.

13. In Linton Stockton School Corporation, 5th grade students (the second half of the year) and 6th grade students do not have art, music, or physical education.

14. Linton Stockton H.S. closed the high school art department when the teacher retired.

15. Columbus Signature Academy will open a high school level tech school with a project based approach to learning. They plan to have non-certified assistants teach art, music, and physical education. They have since reconsidered.

16. Fairfield Community Schools: No art for 7th and 8th grade students.

17. South Putnam Schools: No elementary art classes.

18. Turkey Run High School: One ½ time art teacher.

19. Clinton Prairie Schools: No 7th grade art.

20. South Adams Community Schools: No 7th grade art.

21. Center Grove Schools offer art only in either 7th or 8th grade; students cannot take art in consecutive years.

22. Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township (Marion County ) cut Middle School art programs 2 years ago.

23. Roosevelt Middle School in Monticello, IN has the situation where 6th, 7th & 8th grade all-year band & chorus members cannot take art. Those who have chorus for just 1 semester, however, can do so. Art is a 1-semester-per-grade class, and even those who would like it all year are not permitted to take it.

24. Northwestern Consolidated Schools does have plans to hire another Elementary Certified art teacher for the next school year. They had 3 art teachers, one at each building Elem, Middle and High School, and one recently retired. They did not rehire for that position. So, they stretched the 2 art teachers between 3 buildings. They put an assistant to cover kindergarten art. Recently, another art instructor left, and they did not rehire.  Instead, they just put the assistant at the K-4 level....and a classroom teacher at the middle school to cover for the 5th and 6th grade classes. They do plan to hire next year, though.

25. Jennings County Schools: No elementary art.

26. Jennings County: No Middle school art if in band or choir.

27. In New Castle Community Schools in Henry County, students in K - 6th grade have art once every two weeks because there are 2 1/3 art teachers for 7 schools (4 music; 3 P.E.); in middle school they may take art in either 7th or 8th grade, but they are made to take study hall if they have art, and they cannot take art if they have band or choir.  

28.  At Triton Jr-Sr High school in Bourbon, students in 7th grade have no art program. 8th graders are offered art only if they have no ISTEP math or English remediation. This is new this year due to the re-configuration of the jr. high schedule being aligned with the high school from 9 periods a day to only 7.

29. IPS Arlington High School cut one of three art teachers last year, this year have only two art teachers to service thousands of students.

30. At Chesterton Middle School, 8th grade students that are in band and choir or band and a foreign language course do not take art. In 7th grade students that do not pass the I-step do not receive art.

31. Wayne Township, Marion County: 7th grade: no art if in band, choir, orchestra--Twp.-wide 7th/8th grade (at Chapel Hill 7th and 8th Grade Center): choose Elective due to double math if in excel classes.

32. Two years ago, Michigan City Area Schools cut their art program by 1/3 causing three art teachers to lose their jobs and another teacher to be half time.

33. This year the high school art offerings at Clay City Junior/Senior High School were cut in half; for the last 18 years 7th graders have not been able to take art, and the 8th graders are only allowed one 12-week art rotation. The art teacher travels to two different schools, teaching 5 periods of art daily in 3 different rooms, with no plan period due to driving between schools on prep period.

34. William Tell Elementary art program in Tell City has been eliminated and is being taught in-class by homeroom teachers. Only 2-3 years ago there were enough students to warrant 2 full-time teachers. It was bumped down to one and now none. The junior high still has art but I fear once that teacher retires there may be none.

35. 7th grade art is no longer offered at Pendleton Heights Middle School for 2007-08. It went from a 6 week class for all 7th graders to an option to take after school hours as part of the after school program at the end of the day. It is not offered at all in their schedule. 8th grade art is no longer offered to all 8th graders for 9 weeks for 2007-2008. 8th graders can elect to take a semester of art if their schedule does not require a double English class for 2 periods (this takes up their elective option).  

36. Jac-Cen-Del High School considered elimination of its visual arts program after 2007-08 school year. In July 2007, AEAI discussed this matter with the superintendent. Since then, they will offer visual arts instruction on a year-to-year basis.

37. Mcconaquah is considering hiring a teacher who is not qualified to teach art after the current longtime distinguished veteran teacher retires.

38. Marion Schools cuts 4 positions according to an informed source.

39. Columbus Schools have cut back art teachers to one per school. They had considered to use T/A’s to teach art at their Signature Academy but have since changed their minds.

40. At Chesterton Middle School, 8th grade students that are in band and choir or band and a foreign language do not take art. In 7th grade, students that do not pass the I-step do not receive art.

41. The elementary school in Hope, IN cut their art educators a couple of years ago.

42. Central and Northside middle schools in Columbus cut back to one art teacher per school and put kids on a 7 week rotation about 4 years ago. They do not have art if they are in band.

S.W. Indiana Schools

43. Patoka Elementary: K-6, No Certified Visual Arts Teacher.

44. English School, K-6: No Certified Visual Arts Teacher.

45. Marengo Elementary School,K-6: No Certified Visual Arts Teacher.

46. Miltown Elementary School,K-6: No Certified Visual Arts Teacher.

47. Barr-Reeve Primary/Intermediate School,K-6: No Certified Visual Arts Teacher.

48. Holland Elementary School, Southwest Dubois County School Corp. K-5: No Certified Visual Arts Teacher.

49. Huntingburg Elementary School, Southwest Dubois County School Corp K-5: No Certified Visual Arts Teacher.

50. Shoals Community Elementary School: No Art Program.

51. Cannelton Elementary School: No Art Program.

52. At Hammond Schools, the elementary students 1st through 5th grade only have art once a week for either 30 or 35 minutes depending on the school. Art teachers are all at several schools, most are at 2 or 3 schools, but one teacher is at 4 schools. This is a large school corporation with large schools; many of the buildings have over 700 kids!

53. Alexandria Monroe Elementary: No Certified Art Teacher, according to the DOE Website in 2006.

54. Eastern Hancock Elementary School: No certified Art Teacher (teacher aide provides instruction.).


*A while back, I wrote about the “strict-father” and how it applies to corporate-theocratic education reform.  If one applies cognitive and political linguist George Lakoff’s “Strict Father” model to the white males calling the shots on Indiana education (and across the country for that matter) it’s obvious they see themselves as the be-all and end-all authorities on how teachers and students should be whipped into shape.  The strict-father, in layman terms, means the woman is subservient to the male in the household.  She is kept barefooted, pregnant, and in the kitchen. Their worldview is anti-women, anti-children, and pathologically corporate. 

As strict father types, Pence,  like Daniels and Bennett before him, assumes that men must put female teachers (which make up 70% of Indiana teachers), like women in general, in their place. According to strict fathers, women teach because they can’t do; men do real work (like gamble in the stock market, lead the Chamber of Commerce, or kickbox each other to death), while their wives are left to babysit the kids with their McGraw-Hill textbooks. If men do enter the teaching profession, the strict father deems it best they come from the corporate world and become superintendents and principals who shove slave labor onto female teachers. Pence’s treatment of Glenda Ritz is a perfect example of the Strict Father model at work. 

**A big thank you to art therapist Christy Pence Ellis, who snailmailed me several books on this topic and who prizes the psychological well-being and safety of her students each and every day.




  1. Heroic research, Doug.

  2. Indiana's current school funding formula is stacked against Hoosier children: http://www.wndu.com/news/headlines/Drastic-cuts-or-consolidation-ahead-for-Mishawaka-schools-235684071.html

  3. After Peggy Hinckley left, two of the three Warren middle schools put art back in the curriculum, but not that many kids get to take it, about 100 or so out of 600+ Thanks for all of the painstaking research.

    New Albany also cut their librarians in favor of test prep.

  4. Great article, and I agree, let's hear from Mrs. Pence. What is her opinion on the approach her husband is taking on education reform.

    As a side note, perform a Google search on "Banksters and sociopaths"....you'll find pages of articles. They really don't have a conscience, and in order to carry out the decisions and policies modern day republicans are pushing for with the support of billionaires and corporate compiled trust funds, they'd have to be sociopaths.

  5. Anonymous10:07 PM

    At Driver Middle School in Winchester, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students who are in band or choir can not take art. Also, there is one elementary music teacher for 3 elem. buildings. Elementary students have music for 30 min. once every 6 days.

  6. I attended and watched part of the conversation with Ritz, Tully, Kloth and others referenced here but was not in any way a participant. This seems to suggest I was one of the panelists and made comments about arts education. I didn't.

    1. Sorry about the confusion on this, Scott. I misunderstand and have cleared this up in a note with your comment at the beginning of the article.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.