Visual and Performing Arts Requirements in California: Opportunity and Challenge

Posted: 6 Jamad-ul-Awwal 1424, 6 July 2003

Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) standards are a result of Senate Bill 1390 signed by Governor Gray Davis in September 2000. They require all schools in California to offer education in music, dance, theater, or visual arts, meeting five strands they have established. Other states may have similar requirements.

Senate Bill 1390 calls for the adoption of visual and performing arts content standards by the California State Board of Education and states that instruction in the visual and performing arts should be made available to all students. However, as with standards in other curriculum areas, the bill does not require schools to follow the content standards. Nothing in the bill mandates an assessment of pupils in the visual or performing arts. As stated in the bill, The content standards are intended to provide a framework for programs that a school may offer in the instruction of visual or performing arts.

For each arts discipline the content standards are grouped under five visual and performing arts strands: artistic perception; creative expression; historical and cultural context; aesthetic valuing; and connections, relations, and applications.

While at the school board level neither this education nor any testing in it is mandatory, the picture changes with the University of California (UC) System. It has decided to require all incoming students to have taken courses in VPA. The requirement was for one unit for students beginning their studies at UC in 2003. One semester unit each in two subjects or two units in one subject for 2004. And one yearlong course for students beginning in the subsequent years.

On the other hand, while they emphasize music, dance and theater, UC has approved many innovative courses including Furniture design, Computer Graphics, etc. etc. as meeting VPA requirements.

There is both a concern and an opportunity here. The concern is that many Muslim educators may simply go for a music or dance course because it is "mandatory" now. The opportunity is that we could actually use this requirement to promote student interest in Qirat and Tajweed.

A short description of such a course could read like this: This year long course teaches centuries old art of Qur'anic Recitation. Students become aware of principles and practices involved. It develops awareness of sounds and their sources like nose, throat, lips, and tips of the tongue. They learn to distinguish between seemingly similar yet different letters and sounds. They learn about different historic schools of tajweed (The art of Qur'anic pronunciation) and become familiar with one of them. Requires rigorous practice outside class.

Here are further suggestions about the course descriptions that could be used as a starting point by Islamic school authorities to get approval from the UC system for their innovative VPA course.

Course Goals and/or Major Student Outcomes

1. Students demonstrate ability to read and interpret tajweed symbols in Qur'anic texts (Arabic).

2. Students demonstrate ability to distinguish phonetically between letters of the following groups: a) Seen, tha, Sad. b) za, dha, zua, c) ta tua. d) ha, Ha e) qaf, kaf, etc.

3. Students exhibit ability to evaluate recitation by others based on correct phonetic rendering.

4. Students understand the importance of cadence, tone, flow, and style that distinguish Qur'anic recitation from singing.

Course Objectives

1. The student will understand all tajweed symbols and rules. (Standard 1).

2. The student will analyze his own recitation and recitations from masters and novices utilizing principles of tajweed. (Standard 1, Standard 4).

3. The student will demonstrate an ability to correctly recite any passage of the Qur'an either by looking at the printed page in Arabic or from memory. (Standard 2)

4. The student will understand the historic development of at least one school of tajweed. He will be familiar with other tajweed schools and their geographical distribution in the Muslim world. (Standard 3) The student will develop the skills of time management and become used to the rigors of practice that will help him in all fields of life. (Standard 5).