“Art doesn’t transform. It just plain forms.”
– Roy Lichtenstein
It’s unfortunate, to me, that one of the first things to get cut with school budgets are the arts. Especially music classes.
If there’s one thing I know, the best way to connect with teenagers, or to engage them in an activity, is to use music. If you look around you it’s hard not to notice that they’re attached to their iPods 24/7, and this isn’t exactly a new trend. I remember in high school, back when we still used discmen that looked like this:
and had just figured out how to make mp3 CDs so we could finally have more than 13 songs to a playlist. Back when they were called “Mixes” and not “playlists”. My friend and I finally got our hands on a new pair of split headphones, the kind that go in your ear – and being that we both had long hair they could hide behind – we would sit next to each other with a an earbud apiece and listen to Your Body is A Wonderland during History lectures. One of the most productive periods of day during homeroom in 7th grade was when we were allowed to work quietly at our desks – with music playing. Every day someone brought a CD in, and there was no fighting over what people wanted to listen to – we all agreed that the privilege of playing our own music in class was worth listening to things we didn’t like every once in a while. One of the most popular literature classes at the local college the first year I was there was “The Poetry of Bob Dylan”. So it seems a bit foolish to me that instead of utilizing music in classrooms, we’re getting rid of it.
“With a subject matter as broad as life itself, the arts easily relate to aspects of almost everything else that is taught.”
– Charles Fowler
Think about it, some of the songs that means the most to you now are probably songs that came from your most formative years. They can transport you back there in an instant, with just a few notes on a guitar. I bet most people can even admit to liking songs now that they hated when they first came out, just because they remind them of being young.
Teenagers have a very intense desire to express themselves and be creative. What better, and more appropriate way, than with music? Or if not music, how about art? Photography? Home-ec? Acting?
Obviously not everyone can grow up to be Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, Ansel Adams, Denzel Washington or even Martha Stewart. But not everyone can grow up to be Brett Favre either, and that’s not quelching sports programs. And let’s face it, sports are not the only way to keep our kids off the streets or from getting in trouble. In fact, sports can even cost money for those who participate, so they don’t always help the students who need it the most. Not only that, but especially once you hit high school, sports are significantly more effective at keeping boys busy than girls. I can’t help but wonder what would happen to teen pregnancy rates if there were more options for everyone. Would they start to return to a number closer to what they were back when many of the arts were considered requirements instead of electives? What about teen crime or depression rates?
“Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels.”
– Francisco Goya
Yes, it’s foolish to think that arts can fix everything. But, we’ve all heard the stories of what young people are capable of when they are inspired. They truly can change the world. However, it’s up to us to give them an opportunity to realize that. To become engaged and interested enough in learning and creating that they can’t wait to share their talents. Personally, I think we’re doing ourselves a huge disservice by letting such a huge number slip through the cracks each year.
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso
[One of the first mixes I made in high school (sophomore year, circa spring 2003). I named it Ed and made a copy for my best friend and called it “Ed Jr.” Eventually it became quite popular and got passed around the school, and Ed had many generations of children.]
Did you have the arts available to you when you were in school? How did that effect your school experience? How much of an influence did music have on you, growing up?