If we want our world to be still, gray and silent, then we should keep the arts out of school, shut down the neighborhood theatre, and barricade the museum doors. When we let the arts into the arena of learning, we run the risk that color and motion and music will enter our lives.
-David Rockefeller, Jr.
By examining the benefits of integrating the liberal arts (theater, music, philosophy, dance, and visual arts) into our educational system, we see that humans can learn to effectively change the course of our culture and environment. Through directly integrating the liberal arts into our educational curriculum, the enhancement of all individuals will be achieved. Currently the "arts" are viewed as "extra-curricular" activities, which are not considered essential to a child's emotional or intellectual development. Required subjects are the "three R's - reading, 'riting, and 'rithmatic". Only if additional funds, volunteers, and resources are available do the children receive the benefit of exposure to the arts. Yet, "the arts, properly taught, are basic to individual development, since they, more than any other subject, awaken the senses - the learning pores" (Panel 6).
Humans require means through which to express themselves, separate from the written word. If an individual is unsuccessful in expressing themselves through the visual, theatrical or musical fields, we know that frustrations build up from repression and anxiety - these stresses lead to physical and emotional illnesses. Art can be a catalyst for filtering and expressing our life experiences, positive and negative, so that one might better handle the future, and not be buried in the past or in negative experiences. Through exposing children to the act of collaborating with others on art projects (writing plays, painting murals, building large sculptures) they will learn how to work with others. By working out divergent opinions and ideas, by problem-solving, and by creating their own joint successes - confidence in themselves and other humans can be experienced. World leaders of today could utilize these same collaborative skills in effecting world peace. In learning to respect differing beliefs, yet by focusing on commonalities, human potential can be achieved.
Unfortunately, to date, most conventional educators have not accepted the integral necessity of incorporating the arts into the everyday experiences of our lives, "nor as a legitimate part of education" (Panel 6). By separating the importance of arts from education, the educational community is sending a clear message that art is not necessary for success and wellbeing. Clearly, the opposite is true: "Segregation of art from education is unnatural . . . art is indivisible from life and education" (Panel 6). By providing our children with artistic experiences from their earliest learning experiences we will offer unique ways of viewing the world. Art teaches diversity, patience, and problem solving; while at the same time motivates the individuals by creating successful experiences which will encourage deeper and further learning challenges. Direct benefits are currently being revealed: music study leads to higher mathematical comprehension; dance positively influences physical wellness; visual arts expand problem solving and communication skills; and philosophy teaches tolerance and flexible thinking. "Art is power . . . it influences the mind, the nerves, the feelings, the soul . . . " (Panel 7, 16; Gaines 58-72, Barzun 21). As an example, VH1's "Save The Music" program is trying to insure that all children will be able to "expand their brain cells" by being exposed to musical education in public elementary schools (http://vh1.com/insidevh1/savethemus/ . . . April 1999).
Once the arts are encouraged and the natural creativity of a child is nurtured, or in essence midwifed/birthed" (emphasis mine), these skills will be carried throughout their lives. In the professional world, artistic skills are highly coveted. The ability of an individual to think "outside the lines" (emphasis mine) is beneficial in the technological fields where capabilities are challenged in this constantly evolving field. Being able to think originally is what sets apart individuals and businesses into the successes of a generation. For instance, the world would be less enjoyable without the creative thinking of Alexander Graham Bell, Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Ghandi, or Rosa Parks, to name a few.
(to be continued, Part II & III, with Works Cited provided on last installment)