There is enough bad news (or at least, not such good news) about the state of education to go around. When a story comes out, no matter how small, I feel like a Who shouting loudly, for one and for all. Imagine my joy as I woke to discover, that teaching of arts has edged out Red Rover.
According to a piece today by Kyle Spencer there are city schools offering arts “electives” during traditional recess periods. Music, art, dance and theatre are being taught in elementary schools. Adult volunteers are creating mini-book clubs. Yes, it is only a handful of schools (for now,) but it is so very encouraging, no? Before anyone gets all “what about their unstructured playtime of recess” on me. One need only consider the climate of primary education, to realize there is not a whole lot of unstructured activity being encouraged. I don’t think (and I could be wrong) there is a lot of creative organic play happening in the school yard during recess. I think what’s happening are the same dull or painful games of my youth (including standing around in clusters determining whom to ostracize.)
Having children exposed to music is invaluable. Even if one doesn’t see a value in culture, there is no denying the mathematical component of music education. The same cross-disciplinary benefits can be had in visual arts (science) dance (biology) and theatre (history, English.) I would argue that we can no more afford to raise a generation without math, science and language skills than we can, without a cultural education. Future doctors, business people, public servants and parents, need more than test scores. They need to understand the world in which they live and those that lived before them. There is no better vehicle than the arts to make all of that come alive for a child.
I grew up during a glorious time of robust educational resources and an engaged artistically oriented community. It is because of that great fortune, that I champion the same for children today. My 5th grade play was The H.M.S. Pinafore. Are any schools still performing Gilbert & Sullivan? Do children even “get” the Simpons’ Pirates of Penzance references? Are any schools still mounting any production that doesn’t involve head microphones, hair extensions and copious amounts of make-up?
Art is substantive. If we want a generation of people who can discern between quality and clever marketing, we need to expose them to the real thing. There is nothing wrong with fluff, but it is the peanut butter beneath it where the nourishment lies. Ideally the arts should be integrated into the curriculum, and not seen as an “elective.” Until that time however, I will shout from the rooftops with glee that children are learning embroidery!