Why We Need the Arts in School

I remember my first high school show. I was only a freshman when I got cast as Cinderella in a comedy called When Cinderella Wore Combat Boots. It was a super fun show and I ended up making some really good friends in the cast, but I have to admit I was a little let down by what resources we had.

Our “theatre” was literally just a converted classroom, which actually was pretty impressive. We were able to squeeze a tiny sound booth and lighting board in one of the back closets, four rows of seats on steps, and a decently sized stage taking up nearly 2/3rds of the space. But that was about it. We could only seat about 50 people at the time, and our dressing rooms were either the director’s tiny office right behind the stage, or a tent that we had pitched outside the back door. There was no costume department (it was just my director going to thrift stores), no stage manager, no lighting designer, set designer, or anything. It was all us.

Which wasn’t all bad, I definitely learned some pretty useful skills and still had the best time ever being a princess. However, the experience really opened my eyes to how little our school cared about the theatre department compared to other things.

I mean, our football team had an entire stadium with money for nice uniforms and expensive work out equipment when our drama teacher was out buying costumes at thrift stores with HER OWN MONEY.

It just didn’t make sense. Why do the arts fall behind sports and everything else?

The problem is that schools don’t see the arts as essential to education or as part of the core curriculum. Math, science, and American government are important because with those tools, you can make a good living. The arts are just mere hobbies, and besides, because they’re notorious for being a low paying, cut throat, and unstable business, who would actually consider going into it and still be sane?

Well, surprisingly, a lot of people. While the arts might be a hobby for some, it’s a lifestyle for others. Those actors you see in movies are real people doing their job! Even though artists don’t make as much money as doctors do, they still should be offered as serious fields of study in schools so kids are given more freedom to explore what they want to do.

Besides as a way to make a living, the arts should be seen as crucial to personal growth. We tend to define ourselves based on our artistic interests, including taste in music, TV shows, colors, clothes, and food. And we spend most of our time at school during our developing stages, so naturally, a large part of our personality consists of what we’ve been taught during this time. Teaching students about the fundamentals of these crafts is good for provoking originality and gives them a way to express themselves creatively rather than just being told what to do all day.

The arts are also an amazing way to personally connect to the world around you. Schools sort of help with provoking social interaction by having clubs, but the arts (especially theatre) are also a great way of breaking the ice!

I remember this girl in drama club my freshman year who barely spoke a word to anyone all year. But after being in a few shows, she was practically a different person. She still had that shy charm, but she was walking a little taller, speaking louder, laughing, and even created her own Facebook and started posting poetry she had written. It’s wonderful to have a connection with people around you who are excited about the same things as you. After all, we draw meaning and inspiration from what we know and experience.

Art is our connection to the world and ourselves. We live for talking about our favorite TV shows with friends, hanging up art in our bedrooms, and those moments before class where we can pop our headphones in and escape to another place. Art gives meaning to the human experience, and is quite honestly, one of the most important things you can learn.