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Don’t Spare Me The Drama: Why Drama Should Be A Fundamental Of Education

Mar 1, 2018 by

Throughout the world, in a sector where public spending is viewed as close to profanity, you’ll find drama teachers in schools arguing daily for the importance of their existence. Many governments, particularly conservative governments, have always cast a sideways glance at the arts in education. Like dance, the visual arts, photography, textiles and music they’re viewed as a cultural confection; the ugly stepchild of literature, mathematics and the sciences. If kids want to study theatre arts, they have every opportunity to do so after class, right? Well, not necessarily. Here we’ll look at the argument for drama integrated into a balanced curriculum rather than treated as an optional add-on after the school day proper has ended.

Image by Flickr

Drama is fundamental to learning

Look in any elementary school playground and you’ll see kids acting. You’ll see them engaging in dramatic play impersonating cops and robbers, astronauts and aliens, cowboys and Indians, superheroes and villains. From a young age, we develop a mimetic instinct and we engage with the world by exploring it kinaesthetically. Even this very rudimentary form of learning through dramatic play engenders important psychological and cognitive skills like;

  • Empathy
  • Creative problem solving
  • Language
  • Cooperation and teamwork

Most of the time they don’t even realize that they’re learning. They engage in it of their own free will and rarely do you see their enthusiasm wan.

Communication is important

Kids don’t remain kids forever and their ability to express themselves effectively will play an important role in their professional and personal success. Kids need to know how to articulate their thoughts in writing, but they also need to know the effect that body language, proxemics, facial expression as well as pitch, tenor and tone of voice have on their communication too. Just ask the author Joe Vitale and he’ll tell you that harnessing the power of communication can literally change your life. A well rounded drama syllabus gets young people thinking analytically and making astute choices about the effect of their communication on others.

Drama is empowering

Kids who tend to struggle in subjects like mathematics or science tend to find drama very empowering. There are no wrong answers in drama, only different interpretations. Kids learn not through a dogmatic assumption of right and wrong but through discourse. They learn to articulate what they did or did not like about a performance or piece using an appropriate lexicon. Just look at the way people talk to each other online over how they felt about a movie and you’ll see why this skill is extremely important today.

Drama makes kids engage with the world and their place in it

Great dramatists like Dario Fo, Bertolt Brecht and Athol Fugard have all used theatre as a tool for social change and political activism. In the twentieth century they reappropriated what was a bourgeois passtime and made it into an instrument of social education and a vehicle for change. In honor of this, most drama teachers encourage their students to engage with weighty social and political issues through drama in a “safe” environment where persecution and judgement are left at the classroom door but respectful debate and discourse always have a place.

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