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Support the arts in schools

The arts in many schools are in danger of being cut. In economically challenging times such as these, everyone feels the pinch. School in particular seem to be having a tough time with budgets. Difficult decisions are being made at every level. In times like these, the “extras” (as my kids call them), are the first to go. I’m talking about the arts: music, visual arts, drama.

Girl Playing ViolinEven though I understand the reasoning behind these decisions, it makes me so sad to see this. I suppose, if I had the choice between cutting math and cutting music, I’d choose cutting music, too. But I certainly would despair over the decision. Arts aren’t just an extra, an outlet for the mainline subjects – they truly complement them.

Constructive outlets

One of the obvious great things about the arts is that it gives kids constructive outlets for their energy and feelings. When so many programs are being cut, and everyone is just plain anxious, arts gives children constructive outlets for the feelings. It give a structure to time beyond the school day. More than a few award winning artist have said that arts kept them out of trouble as a youth. It may be “extra” but maybe it should be seen as what gives kids “extra direction.”

Complementing primary topics

Another tremendous aspect about the arts is how they complement the primary topics. No, really.Music? That’s math. Think about how a child learns about frequency and intervals (ratios, patterns), and rhythm (fractions) and counting time. This is a relationship that has been scientifically studied and evaluated.Visual arts? It’s a tremendous way to think about and apply concepts in geometry, science and history. There is a well-known illustrator who began drawing as a way to help himself understand engineering and science concepts – and what’s discussion of the solar system without a diagram to support it? Kids need a basic understanding foreground and background and other spatial relationships to understand such diagrams, and visual arts helps them understand those relationships. And history? A review of great works of art is also a review of the history of the time in which the art was made. There is a context for everything.Dramatic arts are strongly related to reading, English literature and, again, history. Shakespeare didn’t just write plays, he wrote about his time; there is a historical context to he works that a student learns when he or she learns and performs the plays – it’s not just acting.

Keep it in their lives

While I think these are excellent reasons to advocate for the arts remaining in school budgets, it’s an ideal that may not be achievable right now. If arts have been cut from your schools, you can promote the arts at home or outside of school.The simplest way to do this is to have arts and crafts supplies at home for experimentation, an instrument or two for playing and playing around, and encourage your kids to put on their own plays. You can look to the Internet for online resources about specific drawing exercises, reading music, or drama techniques.Beyond that, there are arts organizations in many communities that offer lessons and opportunities for participation. Museums often have programs for families during vacation time.No matter what the status of arts in your community, they are worth supporting – for the happiness and success of all the kids.

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