We all know that America’s schools are unable to provide the same level of education in the performing arts as they do the more core elements of curriculum, such as mathematics and science. A study done in 2012 found that most public elementary and secondary schools are not able to offer theater events in their curriculum. Of high schools, 55% did not offer theater performances or other events, while 96% of elementary schools did not have drama classes for children or any sort of play for children to attend.
- Are the performing arts really all that important? When confronted with these statistics, most school leaders will cite cost as their primary reason for skimping on the performing arts. This isn’t a problem just for schools. When people in general are why they don’t attend more performing arts events, 38% say that it is too costly. Yet the arts give us something that no other thing can. While mathematics and sciences all engage the left hemisphere of the brain, it is the right hemisphere of our brains that is responsible for most of what we do in everyday life. It is this hemisphere that gives us the ability to create and to identify emotions in other people and respond appropriately. It’s impossible to become a successful, functioning adult without development in these area, and attending and participating in performance art events is a key way of developing in this area.
- How else does participation in art events help children? There are a lot of benefits to a child to participating in theater performances or musical events. One of the greatest difficulties about the maturing process is learning to keep calm in the midst of difficulties and setbacks. Successful adults have mastered this skill and don’t let an error or small problem completely derail them, at least not usually. Young children are typically easily distracted and discouraged by the smallest mistake or roadblock and need help learning to manage these sorts of situations and the emotions they produce. When something goes wrong in a theater production, everyone has to learn to improvise and think on their feet. This gives children real life practice in minimizing their errors and getting back on track. A missed note in a musical performance can’t ever be taken back. Instead, children learn to control their feelings of panic and embarrassment and move on. Participation in performing arts events also enable children to express emotions that they don’t necessarily feel comfortable expressing in other areas of life. Taking on a role in a theater performance, for example, helps children put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Dancing can allow a child to explore their own interior world, and success after a band performance or similar event can cause children’s self-esteem to soar. When the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) did a survey asking those who regularly attend arts events to explain why they did so, 60% said that they did so because they value being creative and original. Nearly half also cited the value of trying something new.
- How can I help my children develop an interest in the performing arts? Since many schools are unable to offer much in terms of performing arts opportunities and events, it’s essential for parents to encourage their children to explore the arts. This can be as simple as taking them to live events. The National Endowment for the Arts found that in 2015 almost 32% of American adults attended a live performance event. Take your children to some of these events! When children are young, they may become interested in what they see on stage or even on TV. If your child expresses an interest in a certain instrument, in ballet, or in some other form of dance or performance, encourage that interest. You should also encourage them to keep exploring without putting a lot of pressure on them.
The arts are essential to human development and even to civilization. Encourage your children to develop an interest in the arts and see how it can benefit them as they mature and grow.