Humpday Hmmm 1-16-07

This week’s Hump Day Hmm is about the arts, their diminishing place in education, and what that means for the future. If you’d like to read other approaches to this subject, or better yet, join us, check out Using My Words.

Now I could go off and spout all kinds of facts and research about the benefits of arts in education. But I won’t because that’s not my style. If you are interested in that sort of thing, then check out Americans for the Arts. If you are interested in my thoughts, then keep reading.

Why do you send your kids to school? What do you expect your school to do for your children? I expect the schools my children attend to prepare them for a lifetime of learning. This means providing them with a basic skill set and knowledge base that they can build upon wherever their journey may take them. The skill set and knowledge base includes, but is by no means limited to, math, spelling, history, science, writing, and the arts.

This is a big world. Immense. Teeming with people and cultures and lifestyles that most of us have never even heard of. And yet, with all of the advances in communication technology, the world is smaller than ever. How are we supposed to connect? We connect by finding those things that we have in common.

Artistic expression exists in all cultures in all times. People have always drawn, or sung, or created stories. It is a part of life the world over. If I look at the cave paintings in France, or any of the other places around the world they have been found, I can connect with that place and time because I have a basic understanding of art. I hear the singing of tribesmen in Africa and I can connect with them because I understand music. Whenever I am exposed to the art of another culture, I feel a connection because my basic skill set allows me to do this. As the world gets smaller, this happens on an increasingly frequent basis.

But what of our children today? Many of them are not receiving the same skills I did only 20 years ago. How is this going to affect them as they venture out into an ever shrinking world? What will our world be like if our future leaders do not have even the most basic appreciation for art and culture?

Sadly, we can already see it. In the United States, we have a leader who had never even wanted to travel outside of its borders before becoming President. This administration promotes an educational agenda that leaves little room for anything other than “the basics”. When these children mature and attain positions of leadership, how will they relate to the rest of the world? How will they frame their actions and decisions? Will it be with understanding and respect? Or something else? I believe the erosion of arts in education will have ramifications in our foreign policy for years to come. A leader cannot be effective if they do not understand the dynamics of human relations. The beauty of sculpture, the majesty of music, and the emotion of drama all lay bare the soul of humanity. A basic art education allows you to experience and appreciate it. And then you can apply it in your daily life.

Studying the arts isn’t merely learning how to paint, play the piano, or act. It’s about tapping into a common frame of reference that we share with all of humanity. It’s about learning the human condition. What could be more basic than that?

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5 responses to “Humpday Hmmm 1-16-07

  1. I agree with your position on the arts, although I was more gifted as a scientist. Around here, the schools don’t even seem interested in the basics. They are only interested in getting the kids to pass standardized tests so the school looks good in it’s district. Sure, the standardized tests have math and spelling, but the kids aren’t taught how to think about the questions to get the answers, they just seem to memorize the answers from past tests. Speaking of education, whatever happened to dubya’s plan to increase the number of AP teachers? Did that funding go for more bombs in Iraq?

  2. Well stated. The arts provide us with a universal means of not just communicating with the rest of the world, but understanding it as well.

  3. Melissa, I am past verklempt. I am choked up after reading this. I am just awed by the passionate voices coming to the table for this.

    This was wonderful.

    You started with, “Now I could go off and spout all kinds of facts and research about the benefits of arts in education. But I won’t because that’s not my style.”

    My first thought was? That’s another gift of the arts: understanding and appreciating different styles!!

    Then you ended with, “It’s about tapping into a common frame of reference that we share with all of humanity. It’s about learning the human condition.”

    Fantastic.

    I STG my heart just swelled two sizes in my chest. And while that might sound dramatic, it’s true.

  4. Great post. I’m mulling over my own, but I’m not sure what I can add.

  5. That was an excellent post! I agree, the arts are so important, and even though my own background is more scientifically based, I’m so very glad that my parents exposed me to music and arts as a child (piano, ballet, art lessons). The one thing I gained through music lessons was not only an appreciation for different types of music, but also the history of music, and how it linked with the history of arts in general, and even world events. Very fascinating, that helped me become a bit more of a well-rounded individual. More cultured, I don’t know about that, but at least more aware.
    Not so much in school, but we did have the requisite music classes and band through high school. Alas the trend seems to be with cutbacks, the arts are always the first to go.
    I am heartened to see that my son does have arts and drama/dance class already in Grade 2. I’m trying to get him to take some sort of music lesson as well, and it looks like he’s leaning toward the guitar (as long as drums aren’t in the picture, at least not just yet!)

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