A poll was conducted by the British performing arts newspaper The Stage (www.thestage.co.uk) to determine the opinion that a majority of people had on a topic that is close to the hearts of many people in the theatre community: arts education in school. More specifically, these people were asked whether or not they believed that the teaching of arts subjects should be compulsory.
The results: Approximately 77% said “yes”, while approximately 23% said “no”.
Granted, these results aren’t necessarily a good reflection of what the general public – in the United Kingdom or in any other country – thinks on this subject, as it was merely a voluntary poll that was conducted online. Nonetheless, it does spark a discussion that is worth having: Should students be required to learn about the arts, just as they are required to learn math, science and history, among other subjects? I think it is safe to say that most of us here – the majority of those who follow this blog – who love theatre would say “yes”. However, there is a clear, sizable number of people out there who would disagree.
Perhaps the most insulting and tiresome excuse I’ve heard from people who claim that arts education should not be compulsory is that the arts are not as important to a child’s education as other subjects are. This could not be further from the truth. There is plenty of evidence out there that suggests that kids who engage in creative or artistic activities as a child – whether it be acting in a play or playing an instrument or painting a picture – benefit significantly as they grow up, as a result of it. Plus, kids these days are already exposed to many forms of art on a regular basis, whether they know it or not. It may be in the form of the music they listen to, the books they read, the movies they watch, the video games they play, and if they have good parents, the shows that they attend. If they are going to be engaged with the arts this much in their lives, would it not be better to gain a better understanding of it by learning about these vital subjects early on in the classroom?