For as long as I was at school, maths, science and literacy were considered “the smart subjects.” More emphasis was placed on them than any other – we would spend more time on then, we would schedule dentist appointments around them, and we would be given more homework for them than all our other classes. They were always prioritised over Arts and Music. So why is this? These subjects only make up a small portion of the subjects taught at school, but they are considered the “important” ones. To me, this is ridiculous!
Yes, English, maths and science are essential subjects and I don’t think we should suddenly stop learning them. But their importance does not lessen the importance of the Arts and Music. Arts encourage the development of creativity, critical thinking, motivation and self-confidence – skills that are necessary for innovation. Moreover, these skills can help children learn academically.
Evidence suggests subjects such as music and drama have beneficial effects in the classroom. Playing an instrument benefits creativity, spatial-temporal ability, IQ scores and reading and language. It can also improve motivation and behaviour for secondary school children. Arts education in schools has introduced many children to great painters and great music, and helped them through their first dance steps or musical endeavours. It can serve as a bright spot of the school day, a class that brings fun and beauty, and which is not about testing.
Furthermore, the way the system works is simply not fair for students who have particular talents in the Arts. Their talent is made out to be less important and sometimes even perceived as “drop-kick” subjects. As a result, they aren’t encouraged to think it will take them somewhere in life. If more emphasis was placed on the Arts, it would encourages more kids to go and get an Arts degree or pursue a career in the Arts, because they see their talent and favourite subject as something worth pursuing, rather than just as an interest.
We should remember the famous Einstein quote – the one that says that if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will spend its life thinking it is stupid. Some students struggle to read but come to life on the stage. Others just can’t concentrate in maths lessons but will sit and paint for an hour without leaving their seat. If our schools are only interested in children’s progress and attainment in a limited range of subjects, how can we ever hope to build on the potential of those whose strengths lie elsewhere?
At the end of the day, we should remember that there is a very strong argument for simply pursuing Arts education for its own sake – for enjoyment and appreciation. If the Arts make students happy and feel good about themselves, give them a sense of achievement and help them to appreciate beauty, then that is justification in itself.
Critical Thinking Questions:
- What do you think the most important benefits of Arts are? How will these help you later in life? Are there any disadvantages?
- What do you think the most important benefits of Music are? How will these help you later in life? Are there any disadvantages?
- Who are some famous and/or successful people you can find who attribute their success to studying Arts and Music?
Practical Thinking Questions:
- Take a look at your timetable – do you think next year you could add some Arts and Music subjects to it? Would you want to?
- Ask your teacher or parents what they think the importance of Arts and Music is. Do they think more emphasis should be placed on it?
- If you don’t take Arts or Music at school, I challenge you to do something creative related to Arts and/or Music this week! Paint a picture or learn a few chords on a ukulele! What else could you do…?