The Top 10 Skills Children DON’T Actually Learn From the Arts

This is another post worth transferring out of the old blog to the new platform. Let’s get something straight first: Children should absolutely be exposed to the arts.  Whether they grow up to become the next Van Goh (for their sake I hope not), or are someone whose muse doesn’t grow beyond memes, I believe the arts and creativity are an important formative experience for any child that will often stay with them throughout their life.  That said, since literary criticism classes in college turned me into a monster let’s have some fun with an article that appeared in the Washington Post a while ago.  The topic was the top 10 things children learn from the arts, you can find the link here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/22/top-10-skills-children-learn-from-the-arts/

1. Creativity: “In an arts program, your child will be asked to recite a monologue in 6 different ways, create a painting that represents a memory, or compose a new rhythm to enhance a piece of music..”

Maybe it’s just because I’m one of the poor sods who wasn’t accepted to Julliard’s Little Prodigies kindergarten, but the picture to the right is a much more accurate representation of my first attempt making a pinch pot.  The differences between a mud geyser and a child’s first “creative” experience with clay can be difficult to discern, but perhaps equally as interesting to watch.

2.Confidence: “The skills developed through theater, not only train you how to convincingly deliver a message, but also build the confidence you need to take command of the stage.”

Yep. Nothing teaches a young child, who happens to be in a formative developmental stage of their life, to be secure in their own skin more than having them pretend to be someone else.  And what could be better for the 10 year old diva you’re already raising than giving them an excuse to behave like Carlotta Giudicelli?

3.Problem Solving: “Artistic creations are born through the solving of problems. How do I turn this clay into a sculpture?”

Maybe I’ve always been a little 1-dimensional in my interests, but unless I had explicit instructions to make a pinch pot blob or a coil pot blob, I was going to town on a blob dinosaur.  There was no time to sit back and think, “Hm… I wonder if the ratio I have selected in my mind will yield a sculpture of the proper aesthetic qualities.  Should I add clay? Should I reduce clay?  Perhaps I would be well served in selecting the wooden tooth thing instead of the wooden spoon thing.”  I’m not so horrible a person as to say that whatever thing thing to the right it, it has no value, I’m just saying I’m 96% sure there wasn’t a lot of forethought.

4. Perseverance: “When a child picks up a violin for the first time, she/he knows that playing Bach right away is not an option; however, when that child practices, learns the skills and techniques and doesn’t give up, that Bach concerto is that much closer.”

Call me asinine, but if you have an eight year old who is even aware of Bach and can use the word concerto correctly–let alone pronounce it, my money is on them being able to find the key of A flat and start shredding.  As for the rest of us who have ever touched a violin, screw music, we’re satisfied when we can play the first three notes of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” without the thing screeching like a harpy.

`5. Focus: “The ability to focus is a key skill developed through ensemble work. Keeping a balance between listening and contributing involves a great deal of concentration and focus.”

Focus huh? Zach, Courtney, and Kelly may all be putting on quite the rendition of “Macbeth Jr”, but Robert and Tom are doing a pretty good job dragging everyone including the teacher into Lord of the Flies.

6. Non-verbal communication: “Through experiences in theater and dance education, children learn to breakdown the mechanics of body language.”

This one I actually agree with.  When your 3rd grade music class is doing a unit on Swan Lake, standing with your arms crossed and a frown to rival a gargoyle very clearly tells everyone and God that you absolutely will not do ballet.

7. Receiving Constructive Feedback: “Receiving constructive feedback about a performance or visual art piece is a regular part of any arts instruction…Each arts discipline has built in parameters to ensure that critique is a valuable experience and greatly contributes to the success of the final piece.”

Does it? Really? Seriously?  Look at the “art” over there.  That was made by an adult.  Case in point.

8. Collaboration: “Most arts disciplines are collaborative in nature. Through the arts, children practice working together, sharing responsibility, and compromising with others to accomplish a common goal.”

Clearly this person has never witnessed the mass hysteria incited when the cast list for “Aladdin” gets posted outside the gym/lunchroom/auditorium and the following lecture about why there cannot be 15 Princess Jasmines and 8 genies.

9. Dedication:  “In the performing arts, the reward for dedication is the warm feeling of an audience’s applause that comes rushing over you, making all your efforts worthwhile.”

It’s true, nothing will breed more narcissistic prima donnas than teaching them to do what they do for the applause.  Never mind all that do it because you love it crap.  Limelight baby.  See photo, section 2.

10.  Accountability:  “When children practice creating something collaboratively they get used to the idea that their actions affect other people. They learn that when they are not prepared or on-time, that other people suffer.”

If children really learned how their artistic pursuits could make other people suffer, travesties like those pictured above would not exist.

In the end, perhaps I just don’t have a very distinguished history as a budding sprig on the vine artistic achievement, but I hate to just fall into the realm of another critic.  So instead of leaving you on a not that’s just a tad sharp, allow me to detail the top 10 things the arts taught me as a child:

10. The same people who constantly forbid you from playing with your food are oddly silent when you decide to make a dinosaur head by gluing macaroni onto construction paper.
9. If you have serious aspirations as a writer and ever wrote a play or story in elementary school and have a mother who saves such things, do not let curiosity about what it was like get the better of you.
8. There is no one on earth who seems to know how to make an origami dinosaur.
7. Banging out “Chopsticks” only works as a claim in being able to play the piano until your five.
6. If you happen to be color blind, you can hide the fact easily by just making everything blue.
5. When your art class holds a contest in which you design a new brand and flavor of chewing gum, offering incentives like a free video game console or sports car with every pack does not garner you more votes, and thus does not win you the gift certificate to Dairy Queen.
4. Elmer’s Glue is a joke when it comes to actually holding anything together; however, it will make your skin appear to have aged 70 years when allowed to dry there in copious amounts.
3. Your clay projects from art class, including but not limited to pinch pot blobs, coil pot blobs, and blob dinosaurs are all viable Christmas gifts until the ages of 12-14.
2. Tracing Boba Fett and other childhood icons from pop culture is much easier than drawing them free hand until you’re about 24.  At that point, drawing any of these characters at all outside of being employed by a film studio is no longer socially acceptable.
1. Collaboration with a like minded friend to build castles, pirate ships, and other such artistic fabrications using the silver cardboard tubes in class and then charging “admission” can be a successful means of conning other students out of their green points for the school store.

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