the arts

During my travels from Madison to Chicago almost every other weekend, I have come to fall in love with talk radio.  It’s the fastest way to get information, I’m not really wasting any of my time, and it’s better than listening to “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry 18 times before I even hit the state border.

However, a topic has come up recently that I can not get out of my head.  Being a teacher (currently of language) I have come to notice a few things in the education system that I tend not to agree with.  One of these things being that I think kid’s education is contained within a certain realm.  Students learn everything very matter-of-factly in a small box that we call the American Education System, and straying from this box is something that is frowned up, seen as eccentric, and the doings of a misbehaving, no good, rotten child.

I tend to disagree-although I have dealt with my share of no good, rotten children.  In my own teaching practice I try very hard to let kid’s creativity and imagination flow as much as possible.  Really, when they get into the real world, there aren’t going to be standardized tests and grades given.  There will be, however, jobs that ask people to think outside the box, come up with new solutions, create, draw, imagine, be artistic, and (if I can be so bold) dare to dream.

But, if you take a look at what gets put up on the school budget chopping block first almost every single time, it is the arts, music, language, and all of those creative type classes.

Here’s my arguments:

Case number one:  if you take a look at the rest of the world, there is a far greater push for studies in the arts.  Europe takes languages extremely seriously.  They also believe strongly in theater, music, and many other forms of art.  There is a seemingly large portion of their day-to-day devoted solely to creativity in developing music, and creating art, and allowing yourself to express your individuality through these forms.  When I studied abroad, I had to take a creative arts class. It was the first play I was ever in (age 21). My rigorous AP courses in high school didn’t leave much room for creatives in my schedule. But are we not trying to emulate these other educational systems here too?  Barack certainly wants to, after pointing out the extremely effective German education system in one of his speeches.

Case number two:  the other global leaders are in science and mathematics.  An interview I heard on NPR not too long ago made a strong argument for the “latest and greatest” STEM programs being adopted in schools now.  My own school is bringing it in next year. It’s been studied that Sciences, Technologies, Engineering, and Mathematics have direct links to art, so much so that the creators of the program, and people who study it’s effectiveness have argued changing the name from STEM to STEAM, allowing for the study of arts to be incorporated into it’s program. Kids need to see this correlation. Life is not compartmentalized into Science, Social Studies, Math and English. All of these things bleed over into the others. Everything is connected.

Case number three:  in Wisconsin, there is a bill is being looked at to give state funding to the up-and-coming Artistic Economy that is playing a larger role in our daily lives.  The rational being, the amount of art, culture, and media that we are encounter on a daily basis has an effect on our ability to contribute to the economy.  And the new economy, growing out of the ashes of the latest economic depression, is one that relies heavily on advertising, art, and all of these other truly important forms of expression. We need to be able to teach out kids all different types of strategies for the future-even ones that can help others and bring change to society.

So, the inevitable question that comes to my mind is, why do we stifle our children’s creativity in the one place that it should be nurtured, and encouraged?  It has become clear to me that the influence of art and music in our children’s lives should not be something that we inhibit, but something we enliven in their lives. It would be so great if our children-all children- could get this throughout the day, and not make it an after school activity that require Mommy and Daddy to fork over cash for lessons, or clubs, or whatever. What about those who can’t afford it?

We need to start looking at education differently in this country, and thinking about ways to really help our children become well rounded, participating members of society.

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