A director of a school board’s arts curriculum recently told me that sciences, math and languages all depend on the arts but that the arts are not at all dependent on these core subjects. The arts stand alone. What a brilliant observation and why have I not thought about it this way before. More importantly why am I not seeing this reflected in my kid’s schools?! The arts in a child’s education are akin to elevator music. Something that happens for a short ride, no one remembers what they heard and got off feeling nothing. Ok maybe I am prone to exaggeration on this subject, but am I? The data on the benefits of music education are endless and yet we still undervalue its power in our children’s lives. If you are reading this, I am most likely preaching to the choir but for old times’ sake let’s take a stroll down memory lane. Science tells us…
– Schools with music programs have a higher attendance rate than schools without.
– Kids who take music lessons score higher on tests of general and spatial cognitive development, the abilities that form the basis for performance in math and engineering.
– Children with learning difficulties, who live with dyslexia and who have a tendency to be easily distracted benefit tremendously from music classes.
– Parents whose children take music lessons recognize how a music education makes their kids happier, more concentrated, more disciplined, stronger academically and offer their help to others more frequently.
So there we have it the proof is in the data pudding and YET we continue to segragate the arts from core subjects in our public education system. The arts are slowly slipping out of our schools and the first thing on the chopping block for funding from our governments is usually the arts. We value them as a society but when push comes to shove, we value math and history more.
Why are we compartmentalizing all these subjects. Instead of looking at them as disiciplines, as different branches of knowledge that serve and assist each other. We have all seen the videos online of teachers rapping with students to help them memorize anything from history to math formulas and geography. The NY times best selling author Ken Robinson in the book The Element wrote « the arts, sciences, humanities, physical education, languages and math all have equal and central contributions to make to a students’ education. » Yet another NY times bestseller Daniel J. Levitin a celebrated neuroscientist writes in his book This is your brain on Music that « Musical activity involves nearly every region of the brain that we know about ». When I am teaching rhythm to kids, I am talking about fractions, when art teachers break down an image into shapes, they are teaching geometry…I could go on!
What about creativity? We behave like we can live without it. According to Brené Brown we cannot. She says « Unused creativity is not benign, it turns into grief, rage, shame, sorrow and judgement ». What that means is that if we are not being creative on some level it is dangerous. That creativity NEEDS to be cultivated. She says we are divine beings and we are by nature creative. Lets just say that again. We are EVERYONE OF US by nature creative. Does mean that we are all meant to be on stage, play instruments, paint with watercolours? No but it means that we must flex the creative muscle as our well being depends on it. What better way to nurture the well being of our children than to value the arts and creativity in our schools. Just sayin’…
When Albert Einstein was frustrated with science he picked up the violin and played. When I am stressed and spinning out with a kind of unpleasant swimming upstream feeling. I hear a voice tell me to play piano or sing. I gain clarity on unrelated issues sometimes, just by practising. I have had aha moments on situations too many times to call it coincidence. By making music I am being reminded that I need to connect with my creativity. Solutions to problems come and almost 100% of the time a peace I did not feel before I sat down.
We could find thousands of examples of how the arts have benefited peoples lives. Musicians are everywhere they work in office buildings, hospitals, are athetes and care for children. The arts make us better readers, writers, critical thinkers and problem solvers.
My position as a mom, teacher and music activist comes in the form of question, Do we really not have time for arts in our schools? Is there really no way to find the money? Like anything I believe it is a choice. If I want to get healthy I make it a priority and I will feel better. If we want our children to exprience the priceless value of the arts in their lives we too must make it a priority. My wish is that with each child I meet there is an opportunity to swing open the door to this vast universe and show them how the arts can be a beloved travel companion on our personal journeys’ through life.
Amor y AlergriaXO