"Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow."You'll never get a job doing that!
— Kurt Vonnegut
Around the world, mass school systems still do not understand the role of art in developing a child's mind. Yes, they sometimes pay lip service to the importance of art education, and then art is the first thing to go when money is tight. Participating in the arts—learning to play an instrument or to express yourself through painting, writing, acting, etc.—are valuable not because they allow you to tick a box on a job application ten years in the future, the arts are valuable in and of themselves. What is a life without art in it? What is a school worth without a deep commitment to the whole mind (and body) of the student, which includes art. "You'll never get a job doing that" is something I actually heard in high school when I spent so much energy on music. Later I heard the same thing from business or engineering students when I was getting a degree in Philosophy from OSU. Looking back, I do not regret spending so much energy on music, my only regret is that I did not spend *more* energy exploring other disciplines in the arts. I think I would be a much better public speaker today, for example, if I would have studied drama and put myself up on a stage acting in front of a large audience, one of the scariest things one can do.
"You were probably steered benignly away from things at school when you were a kid, things you liked, on the grounds that you would never get a job doing that. Is that right? Don't do music, you're not going to be a musician; don't do art, you won't be an artist. Benign advice—now, profoundly mistaken."
— Sir Ken Robinson
The role of art & music in education
The advice from Kurt Vonnegut ties in nicely with a piece that came out a couple of years ago by Quincy Jones called Arts Education in America. Quincy asks "...can we really run the risk of becoming a culturally bankrupt nation because we have not inserted a curriculum into our educational institutions that will teach and nurture creativity in our children?" The most interesting part of Quincy's article were the words taken from the 1943 War Department Education Manual EM 603 that got its recommendations on jazz completely wrong. (Read it — you'll be amazed.) Kind of makes you wonder what else — in spite of good intentions — our educational institutions and leaders are getting completely wrong today? If our recommendations are based on the assumptions that science is not a place for creative thinking or that the arts/humanities have no room for analysis and logic or that students need to make a choice about what kind of person they are — logical or intuitive — then something tells me we're getting it wrong. We need both science and the arts...and we need to do better teaching both.
"It has been proven time and time again in countless studies that students who actively participate in arts education are twice as likely to read for pleasure, have strengthened problem-solving and critical thinking skills, are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, four times more likely to participate in a math and science fair...."
— Quincy Jones
Above: Slide with famous Picasso quote featuring a photo of my son banging on the drums before he was old enough to walk.
• Bill Strickland makes change with a slide show
• Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity
H/T Letters of Note website.