Guest Column: The arts are essential for education

Caitlin Walker

RBC | chose my college major based on whether or not I’d have to do calculus. Smart, right?

This means instead of going with my original choice of business management (which would have been oh so very helpful now that I actually own a business—darn you, hindsight), I got my degree in early childhood education.

It was cake, for the most part, and I really enjoyed my classes. (Pro tip: take public speaking online if you are an introvert like me who chokes on your own spit whenever you attempt a conversation in real time.)

I learned a lot of interesting things about child development, which was helpful in parenting the four babies that came into our lives in the following five years. In a fun twist of the universe, my firstborn actually arrived during my last finals week. I remember frantically emailing all my professors from my hospital room and writing those last few essays in a sleep-deprived haze the day we brought home baby. I have absolutely no idea what the heck any of those essays said, but hey, I passed.

Of course, for everything I learned in college, there were 50 things I had to frantically text my mom about. No college course can adequately prepare you for the pressure cooker that is parenting.

One thing that did stick with me, probably crowding out the brain cells containing everything I learned in accounting (the only business-oriented class I took—thanks a lot, brain), is the importance of the arts in childhood education. Academics are necessary, obviously, but without the arts, we’re really not accomplishing much more than a modern-day robot, memorizing and regurgitating information.

It’s great for standardized test scores, but not so great for creating well-rounded individuals.

As technology progresses, it is becoming increasingly important to nurture our uniquely human capabilities. Remember the days of dragging out an encyclopedia to confirm your absolute and total rightness in an argument? All we have to do now is Google it.

Rote fact memorization and “book smarts” are being replaced bit by binary bit.

Fortunately, you can’t Google the feeling you get when you hear Chopin (or whatever makes your foot start tapping.) You can’t Google the rush that comes with finally mastering a difficult piano piece or guitar riff, or the magnificent accomplishment of getting the play of light just right in a painting or seeing your poem in print, or those butterflies that keep you company while you wait to perform a dance or a song or a play.

Teaching children to search for these creative rushes not only adds beauty to our collective existence, it fosters an innate love of learning and sets them up for success later in life. If kids feel confident in their abilities (and not just their memorization skills), they will actively seek out information, discover new things and have the tools they need to make the world a better place.

And maybe, just maybe, we can even overcome the allure of that oh-so-shiny touchscreen.