As parents of teenagers, we’ve seen first hand what happens when governments and school districts cut back on funding to education. Larger classrooms, fewer teachers, and reduced support for kids with different needs. All these have been the result of short-sighted budget cuts to education. But the one cut that always disturbed me the most was for arts education in schools.
When the decision makers get out their calculators and start looking at where to cut money from education, they show their ignorance of the education process. Libraries and arts programs are often the first to go, always at the expense of our kid’s development.
A Brief History Of Arts Education
Back in 1959, researcher C.P. Snow published “The Two Cultures and the Scientific
Revolution”, a book that made the case that intellectual life in the western world
was divided into two cultures; the artistic-humanistic culture and the scientific culture. The book made a strong case for favouring scientific education over arts education, calling sciences “hard” subjects, and arts and humanities “soft” subjects.1
As a result, the Western world began a shift away from arts and artistic education and towards sciences and scientific education. More funding was directed to sciences and away from the arts and humanities. School curriculum’s focus followed the same direction.
Interestingly, this so-called “Snow Thesis” also resulted in scientific, or “hard” activities being considered “basics of life”. The arts, or “soft” activities, were “frills of life”. Crazy, yes?
Only recently have we begun to see a shift back to the importance of arts education in schools. But that shift is coming very slowly. School boards across the country continue to cut programs, such as music and dance, from their curriculum. Still, there is some cause for optimism. There are many studies from the last 15 years or so highlighting the benefits of arts education in our schools. School districts are beginning to understand that a strong arts program results in students better prepared for the big, wide world.
4 Benefits Of Arts Education
Our local high school, Ladysmith Secondary, has some great programs that benefit students of both arts and sciences. They seem to recognize that the two streams are actually interrelated, and each benefits from the other. So how do students actually benefit from arts education? There are many, but here are just four ways.
1. Leadership Skills
Students taking arts courses develop a strong sense of identity, including confidence in themselves and their ability to make strong, positive changes in the world around them.
In developing a theatrical production, group performance, or any type of collaborative artistic endeavor, students practice the fine art of teamwork.2 Students must rely on their teammates, fellow actors, dancers and other performers to convey a mood or meaning of a performance. Collaborative teamwork is critical to success.
3. Positive Habits And Behaviours
The nature of learning a dance, a song, a scene, requires taking small steps, practicing, being patient and persistent. All these processes benefit students in all areas of their lives, no matter what academic direction they choose. Good habits learned in arts leads to good habits in life!
4. Sharpen Intellectual Skills
Engaging in arts education develops a student’s critical thinking skills. Students learn to observe, interpret and see different perspectives. In an increasing environment of polarized opinions and fake news, developing higher levels of thinking will provide lasting benefits, well beyond their university years.
This is only a short list, and it isn’t anywhere near complete. Just like learning a second language, arts education opens neural pathways in the brain and facilitates learning. Creativity is expressed in all areas of life, and taking arts-centred programs engages the student in myriad ways. Arts Matter!
Our Own Children’s Experience
Beth-Rose is engaged in sports through her dance academy, so she gets the benefit of arts and sports. She’s committed to dance, as I’ve written about previously. Dance has given her all those benefits listed above. She’s gained strong friends, become a mentor to younger children, and learned perseverance and resilience.
And although Zach doesn’t participate in any team sports, he is actively engaged in Improv at the high school.
He joined the high school Improv program in grade 9, and quickly found his feet with the group. Now in his fourth year of Improv, he’s also found his tribe. The core group of senior improv members count themselves as close friends and collaborators. Zachary has created deep, probably lifelong friendships, thanks to his commitment to improv.
Arts Education Pays Off
And now their commitment and perseverance is being rewarded. This group of six Senior Improv performers won their Regional tournament on Vancouver Island at the end of February. Now they’re headed to Ottawa in just over 3 weeks to compete in the Canadian Improv Games Nationals! For Zachary and his friend and fellow Improv teammate Lucy, this is the ultimate cap off to their last year of high school.
Thirteen teams from across Canada will perform April 5 to April 8, with the top 5 teams facing off Saturday evening, April 8. With such a short timeline, we’re gearing up our fundraising to make sure all our performers can get to Ottawa.
This is no small task. The logistics of getting six performers, their teacher, an additional chaperone and their technical support person across the country just three weeks from now are almost overwhelming. So we’re reaching out to the community in a big way.
If You Can, Please Donate. Here’s How
On Thursday, March 30, the Improv Team will be performing a show to raise funds for their trip east. Held at Ladysmith Secondary, the show will include a silent auction, with all proceeds going to their trip. Tickets will be $10 at the door. If the theatre is full, they’ll Livestream the show to the foyer for folks to watch remotely.
A donation page has been set up through the school district website. This is a secure portal that lets you make a donation online. This is a win/win for you and the Improv team, because all donations are eligible for a charitable tax receipt. Feel good about helping the students while helping your bottom line at tax time!
The link for donations is https://nlps.schoolcashonline.com/Fee/Details/4/267/false/true
We’re also looking for volunteers to help out with ticket sales, refreshments, and the silent auction on March 30. If you are nearby and you’d like to help out, just send me a message here. All help is appreciated.
So tell me, is arts education in schools important to you? Maybe you have benefited yourself from arts education. Or your children? Let me know in the comments how arts education has impacted you or your family’s life. And if you can help get our amazing kids to Ottawa, Thank you for your support!
2. Improvisation facilitates divergent thinking and creativity: Realizing a benefit of primary school arts education.