Why are the Performing Arts so Important?
Your little one is a bundle of fun. Their imagination astounds you daily, their sheer energy and love for life is something that marvels you. Chances are your young child also loves to sing, dance and act. They surround themselves with make-believe play and for some, despite a real case of shyness around people they don’t know, with you they are a force to be reckoned with!
Seeing the world through a child’s eyes is something that should be practiced daily. Their innocence and their true belief that everything that happens is fantastically exciting is something that we as adults forget. The world is a marvellous place full of opportunity and exciting new adventures.
As your children grow and become young adults it is often the case that they lose their once shining innocence. Their imagination and creativity begins to decline and they often become far too self-conscious to play in their make believe world anymore. And this is absolutely normal! If we as adults wandered around in a make believe world, I’m pretty sure people would be asking some serious questions! However, the importance of creativity and confidence cannot be underestimated in the adult world. There are few jobs now that don’t require an initial interview where a person needs to be able to state their strengths in a positive, confident and assured way. Creativity is equally important – employers don’t want young people who can recite facts, they want individuals who have new, inspired ideas and can implement strategies for the better.
Sadly, our education system does not prepare students for the job world. In the Scottish Pupil Motivation Enquiry, Imaginate (a company tasked with increasing the involvement of children in performing arts) stated:
“The present education system is letting our children down, not only not preparing them individually to cope with the world and their place within it but stifling the vision, imagination and creativity of those children over the duration of their time within the formal education system.”
The English secondary school system is woefully similar. The introduction of the English Baccalaureate has made the situation worse. With no inclusion of the arts at any point, many secondary schools are simply unable to give their students the skills they need for the world of work due to being hindered by the need for them to study ‘Academic’ subjects. I myself saw this first hand when I worked as a Head of Music in various secondary schools. I had numerous conversations with parents who knew the importance of the arts and the skills they would give their child, but were simply unable to provide that opportunity due to the path they were being lead down.
So what are these magical skills that the Performing Arts can provide?
Performing Arts stimulates creativity. So much of acting and drama is led through improvisation – the ability to creatively ‘think on your feet’ using a given stimuli. The ability to pass a message over to an audience without simply stating facts and to do this is in an engaging and interesting way.
It helps children and teenagers to deal with emotions. Growing up is so very hard to do, especially in the teenage years. Your body is a world of hormones causing you to experience peaks and troughs on a daily basis. This can be extremely confusing and scary for our young people! The Performing Arts take these emotions and allow students to use them in a safe environment, thus negating some of the initial challenges.
Performing Arts challenges a young person’s preconceptions about the world in which they live. It helps them interrogate their world; see it as a 3D place. Our world is not a perfect place and our young people need to find a way to live in it with a full understanding.
Performing Arts develops their language and communication skills and introduces new ideas to them allowing them to express opinions about them. Perhaps this is the most important point. If you are unable to express yourself fully and to be understood, how will you ever become the person you want to be in life?
There are many many more reasons I could go into as to why studying the Performing Arts is essential to your child’s education and life journey (how about the amount of fun it is?!) but I would imagine you may stop reading! Unfortunately, many schools have their hands tied and are simply unable to prepare their students in the most effective way. We have to give our children the opportunity to develop their creativity! I will leave you with one of my favourite Philip Pullman quotes which sums up the importance of the Performing Arts for children:
‘Children need to go to the theatre as much as they need to run about in the fresh air. They need to hear real music played by real people on real instruments as much as they need food and drink. They need to read and listen to proper stories as much as they need to be loved and cared for. The difficulty with persuading grown-up people about this is that if you deprive children of shelter and kindness and food and drink and exercise, they die visibly; whereas if you deprive them of art and music and story and theatre, they perish on the inside, and it doesn’t show’
Helen Ames BA(hons), PGCE
Principal of Little Voices Hertfordshire West