While reading the news last week I come across two items which had everything and nothing to do with each other: another school shooting and an obituary of a famous jazz musician.
Legendary jazz artist Byard Lancaster who died of cancer last week was quoted in his obituary saying this:
“One of the reasons we have violence in the schools is we’ve taken music out of the schools.”
Byard was right. Over the past 20 years music and arts education have steadily been cut out of many public schools and we are all suffering the consequences.
What do the arts do besides spend the tax payer’s money? Similar to physical education courses, they help serve as outlet of energy. Not so much physical, but creative energies. Kids who get to participate in public school arts programs work in the visual arts, learn music, and dance to enhance their creativity and hone their focus inwardly. Unlike the traditional academic classes, the arts encourages a freedom of expression; something that may unlock frustrations and feelings and develop coping mechanisms capable of channeling negativity into a healthy form instead of turning to violence.
There have been a number of studies about whether cutting school arts programs can directly be associated with increased violence. In most cases, it has been proven that the art in public schools does keep violence down. Obviously there are more benefits which Lynn Harrell, a world renowned cellist, a father, and dear friend eloquently defines in his heartfelt letter to the L.A. District Elementary Schools.
It is heartbreaking and most frustrating to keep seeing school shootings in the news. It is also heartbreaking and frustrating to knowingly rob our children of yet one more outlet of expression and personal growth.
One of the biggest differences in human beings from other mammals is that we have the capability of appreciating and creating art. From the dawn of mankind there have been outlets for art; cave drawings to rain dances. Every culture enjoys some kind of expression and while there will always be violence in society, the ability to keep it at a minimum is directly in reach.
Although that creativity is in our DNA, the outlet is not always cultivated.