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Why Teach Theatre in Our Schools?

Discussion in 'Education and Career Development' started by lieperjp, Nov 3, 2008.

  1. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    I recently got my EdTA membership packet, and they had this really interesting sheet in it that I thought I'd share.

    Theatre is a Science
    Theatre is Mathematical*
    Theatre is a Foreign Language
    Theatre is History
    Theatre is Physical Education
    Theatre is Business
    Theatre is Technology
    Theatre is Economics

    Theatre is taught in schools
    Not because you are expected to major in theatre,
    Not because you are expected to perform all through life,
    Not so you can relax,
    Not so you can have fun,
    But
    So you will recognize Beauty
    So you will be Sensitive
    So you will be closer to an Infinite beyond this world
    So you will have more Love,
    More Compassion
    More Gentleness,
    More Good,
    In short,
    More Life.

    Of What value will it be to make a prosperous living
    Unless you know how to live?

    That is why theatre is taught in our Schools.


    I thought it was pretty interesting, even though it is coming more from an acting side. Comments?

    *The sheet spelled this as Mathemetical.
  2. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    Well, some of that is true, and some of it makes me gag.
    So you will recognize Beauty
    So you will be Sensitive
    So you will be closer to an Infinite beyond this world
    So you will have more Love,
    More Compassion
    More Gentleness,
    More Good,
    In short,
    More Life.

    Funny thing that it sounds like a high school drama teacher wrote it. "Theatre is not so you can have fun" Oh really? Because I think that most of us enjoy doing theatre, and one of the first things I tell anyone is that if they are not having fun then something needs to change. Then explain to me how theatre teaches compassion and gentleness, even in the academic world, theatre is a pretty cutthroat industry.

    However, if sting things like what that sheet says help get schools and parents to fun theatre programs then by all means keep sending them out!
  3. seanandkate

    seanandkate Active Member Premium Member

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    I think Shakespeare came closer:

    the purpose of playing, whose
    end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold as 'twere the
    mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, scorn her own
    image, and the very age and body of the time his form and
    pressure.

    I still like the idea though, however idealized. Theatre, as well as all art, should teach and delight (not my concept-- Aristotle and many others). It should absolutely have elements of fun (that'd be the delight part), but without the teaching part, the part where we learn about the human condition and how it speaks to us as an audience, the experience is kinda hollow. Good theatre should make us think. It should say something that was arguable. It should make us examine ourselves. No less than Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. . .

    As a teacher of high school drama, pitching theatre as a career is a hard sell at the BEST of times. I can tell parents that presentational and interpersonal skills are transferable to any job out there. But the larger reason (and here the idealist in me comes out) is because in the theatre you have the possibility of affecting many thousands of lives over the course of a career. How many other jobs can boast that? Out of the millions of people who know the name of Shakespeare, do you think ONE of them could name his lawyer? His accountant? His, um, hair stylist? OK, I'm probably grasping here . . .

    I like one of my collegue's sayings that sort of mirrors the heart of your sheet:
    “You’re going to study theatre? That means you have to learn everything!”
    Hoffer and (deleted member) like this.
  4. derekleffew

    derekleffew Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Since it came from the EdTA, chances are very good that a high school drama teacher DID write it. Does this lessen its value in your perception? Would you respect it more if it came from a PhD at Yale, or a Broadway producer?

    As well it should be. Who said "Art isn't easy?"
  5. seanandkate

    seanandkate Active Member Premium Member

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    Art should be challenging. In addition to that, I also want parents to know it's not frivolous.
  6. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    Too much drama, not enough theatre!

    Actually, yes. Why? Because it sounds like something that a high school drama teacher would say to the school board to get them to give money. It sounds great, but at the same time it sounds really contrived. I really can't see any higher education faculty member making statements like that. It certainly is not something that I would expect to hear in a college classroom when the question "What is the purpose of theatre?" is asked.

    I believe that there is a big difference between high school drama and high school theatre. There are big differences between the high school drama teacher who also teaches English or Social Studies and the high school theatre teacher who teaches theatre. The two might put on the same quality shows, but the means to the end and what students take away from it are different.

    I don't mean to come off as harsh or to insult or whatnot. I just think that academic theatre has many branches and some are more reputable than others. I certainly don't think that theatre classes are only for theatre people. I also realize that not every high school (not even most) has the resources to have a full time theatre program with at least one full time faculty member. However I think there is a big difference in what kind of educational experiences are brought to the table when you compare the classes taught by the full time theatre teacher and the English teacher who runs the drama department.

    I don't want to sound like I am attacking EdTA as I think that they are an organization that stands for good things. I guess that statements like those in the orange above sound so highschool-ish and not professional. They make me feel like I am being talked down to, and as I said earlier, some of it sounds very contrived.
  7. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    The sheet it was printed on says:

    So while it may have been written (or adapted) by a High School Teacher, I would hazard a guess that it was written by some of the most qualified High School Teachers in the country. Not to mention the people with PhDs and/or decades of experience that lead these groups.
  8. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    I think the point of that statement is speaking to the fact that the classes offered in a High School are not meant to be "slacker" classes where students basically have a class to do nothing but goof off, talk and play games. Theatre is a lot of work, we can all agree on that. However, you should have be able to have fun, or why do it?
  9. Bluefey

    Bluefey New Member

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    I realize that I am new to this board - but i do find icewolf08's posts very condensending to those of us who teach theatre in a high school - and must speak up to defend high school theatre programs on all levels.

    You are very right that the quality of programs varies greatly from school to school; many schools are on a very limited budget and unable to produce elaborate productions. That does not lessen the impact that we have on the lives of children or on the legacy we leave behind! Thank God for that English teacher who takes on the added work that comes with being a "drama" teacher, for without her those students would never have had an opportunity to experience theatre at all....

    Thank God for EdTA - for all the good things that they do and for the resources that they offer to help that "drama" teacher be the best darn drama teacher she can be!

    We cant all have that $100k budget, but please do not sell our programs short! And do not belittle our intentions or programs. No drama teacher sets out to short change their students - they give as much as they know how to do. It is a shame that all schools do not have the money to fund a full time theatre teacher, but with the funding issues and subsequent cutting of programs some schools dont even get to have that drama teacher. EdTA has worked hard to help save educational theatre and to provide facts, statistics, and cheesey sentimental statements (like in this thread) that those drama teachers and "real" theatre teachers can use to help insure that their students will be able to recognize Beauty
    be Sensitive
    be closer to an Infinite beyond this world
    have more Love,
    More Compassion
    More Gentleness,
    More Good,
    In short,
    More Life.
    misterm and (deleted member) like this.
  10. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    I find that I often get misinterpreted, especially on the intertubes. I think that all theatre education from elementary school through college and beyond is very important. No matter what background an educator comes from. Theatre is all bout community and the fact that every person brings different qualities to the table is what makes the industry thrive. I don't think that the schools that can barely support a small drama club give any less to their students than the schools which have huge budgets, multiple classes and a dedicated theatre faculty. The experience and the mindset is just different.

    Lets put it this way, if I was sitting on the school board and someone came in to talk about the theatre programs with those statements [which we have been discussing], I would still see them as seemingly contrived and sentimental. I would want to hear what theatre teaches that students don't learn sitting in math class or social studies class. Tell me that theatre teaches how to interact with other people, how to work as a team, how to achieve a common goal. Tell me that it teaches interpersonal skills that sitting in a classroom taking notes or reading from textbooks doesn't. Tell me that students learning about technical theatre will come out knowing how to do something, not necessarily theatre. Did you ever ask yourself what the point of taking math in school was? Did you ever say "When will I use this in life?" Well, we apply a lot of those concepts from high school math in theatre, and that is what I would want to hear. All the stuff about recognizing beauty and so on could be said about any fine art class, photography course, choir, or band.

    I am a theatre professional, and I probably would not be where I am today were it not for the theatre classes and clubs that I was involved in when I was in high school (and earlier). I understand the value of these programs and I want to see them thrive. I even would like to ultimately wind up as a theatre educator on some level at some point in my career. However, I think that it is the sentimental and seemingly contrived nature of statements like the ones being discussed that gives theatre a bad reputation in lower education settings. Parents want to hear that their children are developing sharp minds and will go out and be successful, not that their kids are being taught some mushy sentimental thing like theatre.

    So, as I said before, I think that organizations like EdTA are very good for the educational branch of our industry, I just think that we need to re-evaluate the way we promote them, and the [perceived] fundamentals on which they stand.
  11. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team

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    A few years ago I was a High School drama teacher who also taught two periods of History... Yep Icewolf is talking about me... and I agree with him. I was a one man show with almost no parent support. I had a yearly budget of about $500 coming in and managed to leave a balance of about $2500 in my account when I left. I worked way to hard. It affected my health and my relationships with my friends and family. I was a terrible history teacher during shows... this month I won't have time to do anything so there we will just be watching videos everyday. I fought my way through 4 or 5 shows a year but it was nuts. We got shows done... but they weren't always great and my students certainly didn't learn as much as they would have at another school where they had a full time drama teacher. As Alex said, we went through the motions, but what my students took away from being in my program was very little compared to what they would have gotten across town at the high school with the full time teacher.

    As for the original quote I like the first part of what theater is. Those are important ideas to remind people in your school. On the other hand I think the second half is a bunch of fluffy bunny crap.
    "Theater is taught... so you will be closer to an Infinite beyond this world"
    Umm... yeah.

    Meanwhile they missed some really important things about why theater is taught in schools.
    Gaff's reasons to teach theater in school:
    -an oportunity for students to express their artistic creativity
    -an oportunity for students to experience the world from another person's point of view
    -it builds self esteem, self awareness, and self worth
    -teaches the value of teamwork
    -gives students a place to belong at school
    -a place for many students to fit in and feel accepted who aren't accepted other places on campus
    I could go on but I think I've made my point.

    My biggest problem with the original quote is this line.
    Of What value will it be to make a prosperous living Unless you know how to live?
    The writer seems to be implying that theater classes don't help you build real life skills, and that theater classes do not lead to a prosperous living... Instead all theater class are apparently good for is fluffy bunny crap so we can "learn how to live". I can't disagree more, all the things I just listed above are direct results of a good theater program. If you work in the pedagogical world (Gaff breaking out the big words) you will no doubt know that every thing on my list is supported by extensive research as beneficial in helping young people be successful academically and avoiding the pitfalls of drugs, gangs, teen pregnancy etc. A strong argument can and often is made that both theater (and music) programs in school are outstanding at giving students the building blocks they need to be successful and prosperous in life.

    Ok, slowing down... yes I understand that the point being made is that experiencing art helps you think about the world a litte differently and hopefully live life a bit fuller. But the premise of surrendering the high ground and not claiming that theater improves accademic success and helps you have a more prosperous life was a terrible choice to make.
  12. David Ashton

    David Ashton Active Member

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    Mush is mush, if I tried giving that line to students I occasionally teach, they would either burst into hysterics or throw up, theatre is fun, interesting, entertaining and challenging, but is hugely over intellectualized, by teachers trying to impress, well it doesn't impress me or the kids I work with, Shakespeare wrote crude, bawdy very funny stuff, it really should be translated into modern English, but would probably be banned from schools, the sanitized interpretations we see in school productions really lose the essence of his writing."All the worlds a stage"
  13. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    I'd have to agree with you on that. What is that even supposed to mean? That could be taken in so many different ways...

    Much of it is a lot of "fluffy bunny crap." However, and I'm just wondering here, do we come from a different background as someone who is into acting and the "arty" part of the theatre more so than the technical aspect where we have to deal with problems, deadlines, unrealistic expectations... It drives us cynical.
  14. sk8rsdad

    sk8rsdad Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    When I was getting my engineering degree at university and spending my nights teching at the 2 campus theatres we summed up the difference between the 2 disciplines as:

    Engineering aims to make living better, the Arts aim to make life worthwhile.
  15. DaveK

    DaveK New Member

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    In art, we interpret differently.
    Why are you guys so hung up on this individual's reflection of theatre? We all have different personal and professional philosophies on why we do what we do. Your comments are a little harsh... and ignorant and elitist. When was the last time you worked full time in a school?
    Not all schools have the funding to have a full time theatre teacher. So maybe they do split time with English or another subject. That doesn't mean they are any less qualified. How are you to say that students would get any different of an education or experience from it?
    Money, facilities, and a well known institution does not equate to education and experience.
  16. JChenault

    JChenault Active Member Premium Member

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    Well - I think I am hung up on it because it is not an individual's reflection of theatre, it is an official position of the EdTA and (IMHO) it is a good example of fluffy bunny crap and the kind of thinking that put HS theatre programs at risk in this country. For my two cents, icewolf and Gafftaper hit the nail on the head about why theatre education is important. If I am a school board member, I am going to react much more positively to the kinds of list that Gaff and IceWolf have put togehter than the mushy original post.

    I am so passionate about this thread because I hope that some HS teachers or students will read it and counteract this kind of 'fluffy bunny crap' that seems to be prevalent.

    Indeed I am passionate enough that I am considering joining EdTA so I can object to this kind of language.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2010
  17. gafftapegreenia

    gafftapegreenia CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    "The art of making Art, is putting it together."
  18. DuckJordan

    DuckJordan Well-Known Member

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    Doesnt matter
    I'm sorry but i have to disagree with both gaff and icewolf, This probably wasn't more than a teachers view at theater, not as a way to promote more money running into their program, nor was it ever meant to be, but to show what others felt through theater.

    Also Shakespeare is mentioned several times but he really isn't the essence of theater, while yes his plays are very well known and well liked, the only reason they translate is because of the crude humor and his political points in the plays. If you want true theater look into the less known artists, the ones who aren't writing to impress anyone (unlike Shakespeare who was writing for the queen of England)
  19. Pie4Weebl

    Pie4Weebl Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    *Start Commercial in the format of a "Save the children Ad"*
    And this poor child is why stronger theatre education, and education in general is needed through out the country. With out a proper training they are forced to make up "facts" on their own and confuse being belligerent with creating an actual debate. They lack the ability to properly express or understand their own feelings, let alone communicate in group functions or be able to work in a team. All of these things could be fixed if they just had proper exposure to theatre! For just the cost of a coffee a week you can help these poor children in a state most people don't even know exists!

    Please send your money to Pie4Weebl Bartab Enhancement Fund today!

    *End Commercial*
  20. seanandkate

    seanandkate Active Member Premium Member

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    Someone really needs to tell the over 500 Shakespeare Festivals around the world that they should immediately switch to Marlowe and Jonson -- playwrights with serious catalogues. :rolleyes: There's just so much wrong with your statement, it would hijack this thread for pages.
    And Shakespeare wrote for many individuals, as did other playwrights of the period. They were called patrons.

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