Friday, February 05, 2010

Why the Arts are Required

I hear a lot of parents talk about the "extras" in school--sports, scouting, music lessons, art classes...often in that order.  In our home, music and art are requirements, not extra.  I consider the fees that I pay to the teachers of art and music to be our "tuition." 

My husband never took music lessons of any kind, except what he was exposed to in "music" class in public school.  I took music lessons of every kind--8 years of piano, chorus, band instruments, marching band, stage band, rock band, musical theater, and later on, guitar.  I am not an accomplished musician, but more of a jack of all trades and master of none.  Nevertheless, I am well-familiar and can hold my own in a musical setting, can sing on key, and appreciate music on many different levels.  My husband regrets his lack of his musical training and wishes that he had some, and I cannot imagine my life without it.  One thing neither of us had was art training, though I am somewhat self-taught in that regard.  I feel the lack of training acutely and regularly.

When it comes to the question of what is really important in life and what is necessary for survival, I have to ask myself what it means to truly be alive.  I know my children need to learn that 8 x 7 = 56, etc. and proper grammar and spelling is helpful if one wishes to appear intelligent and civilized.  However, it is music and art that makes us come alive inside, helps us to connect with the whole world around us, and convinces us that we are part of the living, breathing human existence. 

I suppose it is important to learn to tie a knot or kick a ball, but will these things change the course of a child's life?  I'll sign him up for scouting or soccer sometimes, in certain seasons, but as we go, it is music and art that will remain as cornerstones of their educational experience.  If after five years he decides he wants to change the course of those studies, we can reevaluate, but only if and after he has given his best efforts to achieve some level of mastery of the fundamentals.  Then he should be able to make a well-informed decision for himself as to how necessary music and art are for his own existence. 

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