There are very clear distinctions between art and academics. Academics is associated with rigidity, learning, seriousness, structure, form, intelligence. Art on the other hand is associated with a lack of structure, a lack of rigidity, creativity etc. Mind you, these are stereotypical associations that we tend to make. We have been led to believe that an academically person can be artistically inclined but the same isn’t said to be true of an artistic person.
Schools make it a point to be academically inclined. Art subjects tend to be squeezed in and sometimes, they are completely non-existent in the curriculum. The arts consists of not just painting, but also music, drama, dance, poetry, culinary arts, photography, film-making etc.
The school of thought seems to be this: a child cannot survive without being academically educated because academics are important. On the other hands, a child can do without the arts because they are frivolous in the grand scheme of things. Academics will get you a job or even appreciation from your peers. Arts cannot do both.
Let us get down to brass tacks. How many times at school has the week’s one and only art class been taken over by another teacher who wanted to teach some other subject? And how many times has a class a Physics class been taken over by an art class or a music class? When you do answer this question out loud, your answer might surprise you.
So what is to be gained from making adequate space for the arts in a school schedule that is already packed?
Here is what a student gains from being exposed to both academics and the arts.
1. Self Confidence – Students gain confidence from participating in performing arts like music, dance, theater etc because participating in these arts also means performing in front of an audience. Children initially start off scared but over time they build confidence and become far more sure of themselves. Its not a lack of intelligence that keeps a child from participating in class. It is a lack of confidence that prevents them from participating or even speaking up.
2. Persistence – Certain art forms require a child to try again and again until they get it right. And even then, a child needs to continuously practice the art form in order to be good at it. When a child understands that practice is what makes perfect, they develop the ability of persistence. Now let us think of other areas where persistence would be an useful ability. Academics comes to mind, do they not? Rather than trying to get a child to become persistent by telling them that practicing math problems makes them perfect, one can actually see the ability of persistence grow organically.
3. Conception of Self – When taking part in different art forms, children begin to form a sense of who they really are. They might realise that while they do not enjoy singing, they do enjoy listening to music. They realise that they are more invested in doing behind the scenes work as compared to acting on stage. For children who are unsure and not confident of who they are, art does help them build a sense of self, wherein they begin to know themselves better and also realise what skills they possess or do not possess.
4. Achievement Motivation – Children know that when they participate in art-related activities, they need to meet a certain standard in order to be considered good or excellent at what they are doing. This need to meet a certain standard of excellence and working towards it is known as achievement motivation. Achievement motivation is something children can learn through art. And once they learn it through art, it becomes easier to apply it to academics.
5. Leadership & Risk-Taking – By developing a certain amount of self-confidence and conception of self, children begin to develop leadership skills. They also know that its becomes necessary to step out of one’s comfort zone at times, and while earlier on, they might not have done anything about it, when children develop enough confidence to feel secure about themselves, they step out of their comfort zones knowingly, take charge of situations because they feel confident enough to do so and know that without a little risk-taking, one cannot achieve anything.