I am passionate about education. I believe that the main mission of education should be to spark in students a desire to be a life-long-learner. Education is more than English, science and math. Education needs to inspire students to educated themselves – ongoing, voluntary and self-motivated. Students who understand how to learn and how to apply what they learn, students who love to learn and who are motivated to learn for themselves enhance social skills, become active citizens, develop personally, and become self-sustainable and employable.
Education must think “outside the box” to create life-long-learners. Education curriculum needs to include the arts – music, art, drama and dance. The benefits including these subjects in course catalogs far out weighs the costs of providing them. The benefits of a fine arts education include better grades, higher standardized test scores and higher educational attainment, attending school more regularly and a higher self-concept. The arts teach skills such as ensemble or teamwork, community and inclusion, and leadership while decreasing problem behaviors. It is my belief that students who have the opportunity to choose classes in music, art, dance and drama have higher grade point averages, a decrease in absenteeism, and a decreased disconnectedness to the school they are enrolled in. An education in the arts helps students raise self-confidence, develop a sense of community in their school, town and the world, and help them connect with the adults in the community in a positive manner.
The benefits of including the arts as educational choices stand in contrast to the problems education is facing in our nation. Students are no longer interested in learning. They are spending alarming amounts of leisure time doing nothing. It should come as no surprise that we are facing higher levels of disinterest, underachievement, disengagement, and an increased amount of time teens spend unsupervised by adults. I have observed that schools that limit opportunities in the arts face increased violence, bullying and rising drop out rates.
Teens need to feel connected – to their families, peers, schools and communities. Educational opportunities in music, dance, art and drama provide a connection. The arts help make sense of the other basic learning we are providing. As I teach theater to teens I teach English – as we read and analysis plays. As I teach drama to kids I teach physiology and social science – as we discuss and analysis characters and discuss the themes, morals, and lessons presented in the productions. As I teach theater to teens I teach math and science – as we build sets, fly set pieces, alter patterns, apply light theory, or sound theory. As I teach theater to teens I teach empathy, responsibility, ownership, problem solving and observation.
Teaching drama is not a “fluff” job. Teaching drama is not all about pretend (although, what is wrong with pretend? After all, “pretend” was your first educational experience long before you hit the halls of educational institutions). Teaching music is not about fun and games. There are deadlines and expectations to meet… and homework assignments.
Teaching the arts to teen creates well rounded adults!
Teaching the arts to teens does no harm. While engaged in making or attending any of the arts, we are not engaged in war, persecution, crime, or any of the social vices we could otherwise be engaged in. The more time and energy we devote to the arts the better off we will all be.
Teaching the arts to teens meets a sophisticated expression of a basic human need – an instinct to mimic, to project stories onto ourselves and others, to create meaning through narrative and metaphor.
Teaching the arts to teens brings people together. For a performance to happen, people gather in one place for a couple of hours, witnessing and contemplating an event that may be beautiful, funny, moving, thought-provoking, or at least diverting. In an age where most of our communication happens in front of a screen, whether large or small, this gathering together for a shared experience matters!
Teaching the arts to teens models a kind of public discourse that produces change. Isn’t that what living in a democratic society is all about? Teaching the arts to teens builds listening skills. Students are able to see an issue from all sides. Empathy for others, understanding the struggles of our fellow human beings no matter what their views are, brings communities together and solves problems happen as we view the performing arts. When we watch a play, we learn what happens when conflict is not resolved, and what happens when conflicts are resolved. We develop our imagination – imagining the outcomes of various choices we may face. We see the possibilities!
Teaching the arts to teens contributes to the overall education of students. It increases literacy. Watching live theatre can be a challenge. It requires focus, quick mental shifts, and nimble language skills. Theatre educations teaches students about human motivation and psychology. Students gain a better understanding of what makes them (and others) tick. Historical dramas teach lessons in leadership and government. Contemporary drama teach about people and cultures. Comedies allow us laugh at ourselves and see things from the “lighter side of life.”
Teaching drama to teens influences the way they, and we, think and feel about personal lives. It encourages students to take a hard look at themselves, their values and their behaviors. Students grow. Students become contributing members of the adult world. Students become adults willing and able to make a difference in this world.
Teaching drama is not about creating more actors for Hollywood or Broadway. There are far more occupations that have been influenced and improved because of a high school education in the arts. Sure, a few students dream of being on stage… being the star. A few want to be crew members, designers, directors, lighting technicians, sound engineers, grips, film crews, costumers, casting agents, make up artists, line producers, prompters, producers, or a million other arts related occupations. Face it, the performing arts is a huge piece of our economy. But don’t forget other occupations that have been influenced and improved because of a high school education in the arts. I know people who loved drama and music in school who are now lawyers, dentist, production managers, doctors, teachers, realtors, carpenters, bridge designers, interior designers, politicians, architects, managers, entrepreneurs, public speakers, and writers. Their education in the arts helped them to develop skills needed to be successful adults – able to communicate effectively, to be personable, to think outside the box, to problem solve, and to be confident.
I understand that communities and schools are limited with resources. However, cutting the arts as education opportunities is not the answer. I am not spewing a steam of words here. I am willing to put my money where my mouth is. I am willing to work, volunteer, mentor, instruct and guide students. I love doing it. I love seeing their eyes light up as they begin to be awakened to the possibilities.
Still, it’s time to step up and provide a well rounded education full of possibilities and put FULL arts programs back into ALL schools!