Our first episode is about Arts in Education. Funding has been cut across the United States, but meeting with the folks at Young Audiences New York was eye-opening.
Here’s what I did not know until yesterday: Arts Education is not in the curriculum in all New York City schools. That means that music class, art class, choir and band are all virtually non-existent for our city’s kids unless a school has the gumption to apply for a grant to bring arts into their environment. (And I am sorry that I had to use the word ‘gumption’ but I am angry.) New York City is one of the most culturally vibrant cities in the world, and our own school kids are denied the arts in their schools. Ummmmm, some questions.
The arts were all over my education growing up on Long Island in the 1960’s and 1970’s. In fact, the best times that I had in school involved the arts. I would not like to imagine growing up without learning to play the recorder in the third grade. I was really so bad at it, too, but I didn’t give up until the teacher asked me to “stop, please”. I can still remember the green felt bag that was the recorder’s home. And how I would take it out to practice and torture my parents with my jazzy rendition of “I’m a Little Teapot”. Oh, how I dreamed that my amazing recorder playing would win David Cassidy’s heart. Good times.
I was in the choir. I was involved all the school plays from kindergarten (where I played Bacteria in the Ecology Play) all the way through my senior year in high school. I took classes in drama and directing. In fact, because I wanted to take so many arts classes, I never had any free periods and subsisted on a diet of Blow-pops and cafeteria coffee (it was the late 70’s and there was no such thing as nutrition). My arts education helped to make me who I am today. All right, so maybe that’s not the best recommendation, but it is still really important.
It seems wrong that the arts are considered non-essential curriculum. I understand that it’s all about reading, writing and arithmetic, but we learned yesterday what I long suspected: children do better in all of their classes when they are exposed to the arts.
So, what can you do to help arts-in-education? Well, we got a lot of great ideas from YANY. If it’s not in your child’s school, make sure it is at home. Spend an hour a week making art together, or making a movie on your computer, or having a sing along. A few years ago, my friend and I were singing with my nephew, who was 7 at the time, around the dining room table. I noticed that he was fidgeting a bit during one of the songs and I asked him what was the matter. “I really have to pee” he said, “but I don’t want this moment to end.” I assured him we would keep singing. We did. We have never really stopped.