Why the arts are fundamental

The arts are fundamental; they equal culture and humanity. Without the arts, we cannot fully understand ourselves, our neighbors, our society or our world.

by Lynn Monson — 

We now have a body of research that strongly indicates and is proving that the arts — music, dance, theater and visual arts — are important to the education of our children and should be included as an equal partner in our educational system, not just as an adjunct to it.

What arts educators have known instinctively, and research now supports, is that the arts teach valuable and necessary skills for success and, indeed, survival. Some favorites include:

  • physical, mental, and spiritual health and well-being
  • problem-solving and communication skills
  • creative, out-of-the-box thinking, which in today’s global economy is paramount to the success of any business
  • team-building exercises, where students work together and learn that all the parts must be successful for the whole to be successful
  • the importance of striving for perfection — practice, practice, practice

When CEOs of major businesses were asked what we should be teaching our students, their answer was different from what one might expect. They said work ethics, character and integrity. The arts teach these skills naturally, and better reinforce them than other subjects do.

But there is another, more compelling reason for the arts to be regarded with importance throughout our society. They are a basic part of our culture, our humanity. Do you doodle? Do you tap your toe or drum your fingers? Do you express joy or sadness? Do you hum or whistle? Do you have a favorite color? Most of us do.

These are natural and human behaviors, and they are the raw materials for our art forms. The arts develop from our humanness — our emotions, our movements, our senses and the world around us — the colors, sounds and rhythms in nature, the movements of the earth. From the beginning of history, we have continually refined those basic raw materials into our art forms.

By most definitions, we consider ourselves to be an advanced society — and yet, with all our advancements, we do not seem to place much importance on something as critical as the arts.

The arts are fundamental; they equal culture and humanity. Without the arts, we cannot fully understand ourselves, our neighbors, our society or our world. The arts are not separate from us but a part of us.

 

Lynn Monson is active in Arizona’s state dance organization and teaches dance at the Carmel Community Center in Chandler, Ariz. www.carmelcommunity.org or 480-726-8100.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 2, April/May 2007.

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