In the education world today, you cannot escape hearing about the importance of STEM. Yes, this is critical! Yes, it helps prepare students for the future! But focusing our entire attention here is a mistake: STEM jobs are competitive and can be difficult to find. And, of course, with automation, many jobs will be obsolete within years. Performing arts education, though, prepares students for a lifetime of critical thinking, decision-making, collaboration, expression… Skills which will never be automated!
The Role of Performing Arts in Schools
We all want our children to learn and practice transferable skills, or those that can applied across different jobs and different situations. Performing arts give students the opportunity to hone their capacity in:
- Communication. Students learn to express themselves in both verbal and nonverbal ways, delivering a message clearly and effectively. Many jobs require us to present or speak to groups large and small. Gaining confidence in this area is a significant advantage.
- Collaboration. Another 21st century workplace skill, performing arts students learn the value of teamwork and engaging in creative collaboration. This also teaches them to resolve differences and discord in a respectful way.
- Independence. As important is the ability to work independently. The arts give youth opportunities to pursue their passions and immerse themselves in their work. In terms of theater, for example, the performance of the cast matters, but so does their ability to engage the audience through their own efforts.
- Self-Reflection. Students learn to weigh the value of feedback and integrate it into their work. This is a must in work and life!
- Creativity. Creative thinking crosses over from performing arts to every other academic discipline. From finding novel solutions to problems to figuring out new approaches to challenges, this type of neural gymnastics is invaluable.
- Academic Achievement. Research shows that students who are exposed to drama, dance, and music are more proficient in math, reading, and writing. It also strengthens perseverance, motivation, attention, and concentration.
- Self-Expression. Performing arts education gives children the chance to express themselves – and work through complex emotions in a healthy way.
- Empathy. The ability to think beyond oneself is crucial in the workplace and in life in general. The performing arts expose children to other people, other cultures, other beliefs, and other values. They’re more open to new ways of seeing the world – and because it isn’t focused on winning or losing, they understand the value of working together towards a shared goal.
Performing arts in schools is not just important; it is critical in preparing students for a successful future.