Playwright Mike Lew criticizes the logic behind blaming a lack of arts education for a decreasing attendance at arts events.
Take the basic argument of “We need more theater in schools so more people will go see theater later in life” and substitute comparable forms of entertainment where young people are already dropping boatloads of money. The very logic of the construction collapses.
Consider the following assertions:
-No one likes cooking anymore because we stopped teaching Home Ec in the schools.
-We need more video game training in classrooms to ensure the next generation of Xbox users.
-If we don’t teach kids how to listen to standup comedy, Louis CK will go bankrupt.
-Kids who never played live music in school just plain won’t pay for a Jay-Z concert.
Now consider the converse, swapping out theater for things that we do teach in schools:
-Good thing we taught kids biology, because zoo attendance is up 50%.
-Colonial Williamsburg is popping thanks to US History classes.
-Now that we have English in schools, bookstores are saved!
-My classroom had a PC, therefore this ipad is nonsense.
Some of his examples are a little flawed. Whether it is due to the lack of home ec classes or not, people actually aren’t cooking.
Much like cooking, arts attendance and participation is influenced by the example provided by parents and educational environment. I would argue with both the arts and cooking, the more you know, the more you will be willing to experiment with unfamiliar fare.
But as Lew points out, interest doesn’t depend on you being introduced to the arts in school. People will make the decision to attend if the opportunity appears interesting enough.
While his contentions that the problem is based in inflexible timing of performances, dearth of social opportunities, programming choices that don’t resonate with the lives of young people and general lack of hospitality are not new arguments, it doesn’t mean he is wrong.
As I was reading some of his examples, I thought that it wasn’t logical to draw a direct line from biology to zoo attendance and English classes and bookstores because there are plenty of other positive outcomes that can result from these classes. The same can be true of the arts. English, sociology and anthropology can as easily lead to the arts as directly arts education when you think about the stories people tell and the way they express themselves.
Give his post a read, he makes many interesting points in his contribution to this ongoing discussion.