A copy of a post I wrote for the Save the arts Campaign.
When considering how to formulate my response to this it occurs to me that both of the subjects do not require (for the most part) children sitting behind desks. Of course the best classrooms will encourage kinesthetic, active participation however in a basic and practical sense the sports hall/field and drama room are often the only spaces where children’s learning is directly related to the physical. Here children interact physically, move around spaces, develop spacial awareness, explore their own bodies as well as, (shock, horror!), explore theoretical models in practice. To be contained each day, every day with only breaks or lunch times to be physical in a space isn’t good, isn’t ‘human’. We are, after all, physical beings so why create a curriculum where there is no opportunity for our brains to be directly engaged with our bodies? As I watch my 14 month old daughter play I watch her explore her body, test it, see what it does, see how it feels to jump, spin or even simply be still and feel the wind on her face. She is clearly learning about her environment and her self within it. Does this stop when you become a teenager? Isn’t that a time when there are huge changes happening in the body and to the body? The physical nature of both subjects is vital at this age because it helps children connect with their body which is theirs, for the rest of their life. To remove the two subjects where they are not linked to a desk stinks of control, stinks of passive receivership of a dictated curriculum, ideology, stinks of “sit there and shut up”!
As a drama expert and someone who works in schools supporting teachers to develop drama in their classrooms I know the power of it and have a deeply held set of beliefs and values as to its use and purpose. That’s right Mr Gove people actually pay me to help them do MORE drama in schools, MORE exploration of the curriculum through drama, MORE DRAMA! Not less! Why? Because it makes every single aspect of the curriculum accessible, relevant and purposeful. Because it allows learning to be hung off a story. A narrative. Stories are what we are made from, stories are how we define ourselves, bond and share. Stories and narratives unite us and go back to our deepest roots. Stories are part of our humanness and as Edward Bond says drama is about exploring our humanness, our humanity and what it means to be ‘human’. Drama offers a chance to explore this through story, through character and by doing so we understand ourselves, others and our world better. It allows us to explore our own ethics, values, why people do the things they do, what motivates, drives and informs people’s actions and decision making. Drama is a space where through exploring others stories or creating their own children come to understand more about themselves, this world. To deprive children of this opportunity is dangerous. Don’t we need more empathy? More understanding in a world that is full of differences, challenges and changes? Don’t we need more humanity? Active participation? Considered decision making? Drama gives children the chance to voice ideas, try on values and challenge preconceptions. Many children site that their drama teacher ‘wasn’t like other teachers”. I would argue that they are but its the space that is created, the freedom of conversation, the co construction of the lesson and the focus on self and others that drama allows that is special. PSHE, Citizenship, History, Literacy, public speaking, group work, negotiation, team work skills, independent thinking, self management, logical thinking, problem solving are all intrinsic within a drama classroom. But then perhaps thats the problem. Who wants a generation of opinionated, passionate, outspoken, active, eloquent and confident young people? Sit down. Shut up. Listen. All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.