Let’s hear it for the drama teachers

by Jini Stolk

Who knew that being a drama teacher was such a contemptible career choice? Or that choosing to inspire children to express human emotions through the arts makes a person unfit for leadership?

In Canada today, you live and learn.

I am a bit surprised that the response from artists and arts lovers to the recent ads making those points hasn’t been more forceful. Maybe it’s taken us a while to get over our astonishment at the implication that anyone involved in the arts is not strong enough, smart enough, or perceptive enough to make firm and wise political decisions. (And that the people who teach our children to understand themselves and others by means of creative expression aren’t worthy of appreciation and respect.)

Most of us are intimately aware of the profound impact an experience of theatre, dance, painting or music can have on a child’s confidence, perspective and sense of his or her future. We also know (see the Performing Arts Education Overview among many studies) that a childhood experience is the most important determining factor in a lifelong immersion in the arts as a means of self-expression, joy, or understanding.

At the wonderful recent Summit in Edmonton, called to discuss “How do we speak for the arts in Canada today?”, a key theme was the need to have a strong united voice on the essential role of arts education in building the type of compassionate and innovative society we want to live in.

This is why I’m so delighted to continue working with Patty Jarvis and PAONE to carry on the recommendations that came out of our Performing Arts Education Overview – and so happy to share her recent thoughts on collaborating to build audiences, arts participation and support.

I will say more in future about the exciting and hopeful Summit discussions. Incidentally I was happy to reconnect at the Summit’s final reception with director and artistic director Ben Henderson, who is now an Edmonton City Councillor – and an excellent one, according to the locals. (I wonder if that’s because of or despite his impressive achievements in the arts…)

But first: Speak out on social media if you feel that teaching drama or any of the arts is one of the most important careers a person can choose in Canada today.

And note this from WolfBrown’s November 20, 2012 issue of On Our Minds: “Having just attended a public event in Chicago key-noted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, soprano Renee Fleming, and others that announced the decision to make the arts a core subject in the school curriculum, I wondered what convinces a mayor to become the public champion of arts education. Turns out Emanuel studied dance very seriously and believes in the importance of the arts in human development. Had the arts been a core subject in the communities where some of our other public officials were educated, one wonders whether we would need to rely on economic impact studies to garner their attention.”

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