Should Media Studies and Drama Be Abandoned in Our Schools?

November 18, 2013 2:10 pm

“The arts are an even better barometer for what is happening in our world than the stock market or the debates in congress…” Henrik Wilem Von Loon

the artsI was speaking with an acquaintance of mine a few days ago (I was also wracked with nerves as I was about to go on stage to perform a one-act play in a hideous pink, floral dress), who happens to be a drama teacher. She was telling me about how much harder it is for high school drama teachers to get work these days because Drama in the pre-GCSE curriculum has been deemed a non-essential subject by many schools and colleges. Even the government has briefly toyed with the idea of axing it in schools all together. This astounds me, perhaps because I am biased as a former Drama student (not one of the ‘shining stars’ of the class, either,  I might add) but also because there are a whole range of subjects in Cultural Studies and the Arts that are deemed by the general public and the government to be entirely ‘unnecessary’.

I’ve been faced with this stigma in other subjects too, as a former student of Media Studies. When a person does not understand the value of a subject themselves, it’s very easy for them to judge it superficially. For example, a person who has no interest or cannot understand Media Studies might judge it as a ‘soft subject’, because they see all the films on the ‘watching list’ and seem to think that’s all Media Studies students do. In the current time we live in, it is vital that Media Studies offers the most important tools to understanding the way the world functions through the workings of the media, and watch television and film as informed individuals. Not just so people understand what an advertisement is but how it works, how it persuades people and how advertisements sell products. Such tools can transform people from mindlessly watching television to actually developing poignant thoughts whilst watching television. The ‘box’ then gets the reputation of being an informational tool instead of something to vegetate in front of. The media is an ever increasing entity in the post-modern world, we need now, more than ever to take steps to understanding how it works as we would a human body, or the socio-economic status of Europe during WW2. In this thinking, Media Studies would be even more beneficial if it was compulsory in our schools, instead of optional bordering on apparently ‘useless’.

dramaDrama and Theatre Studies is another clear view into the contexts of the culture of our countries and the culture of our world. Gaining an insight into plays gives us a snapshot of life when the play was written. And I cannot stress enough the effect performance has on the suffering ego – as someone who occasionally suffers with low self-esteem, I would not be the person I am today if I had not discovered Drama at an early age. Not only because it offers escapism, boosts confidence, increases the ability for public speaking (good for the work place) but it allows many perspectives on the human psyche through characterisation, and if students read from different theatrical practitioners it offers different philosophical perspectives as well. For example, one who looks at the Theatre of the Absurd will see clear parallels between Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and basic existentialism theories. Knowing the difference between Stanislavski and Brecht can enhance understanding of differences in philosophical theory, ethical theory, political theory. A play is more than words on a page, there is more to it than just acting it out or reading it through.

artSo I denounce the people who claim that Drama and Media Studies are unnecessary to the blank slate that is a first  year student at a high school. I denounce those who drive their children to study subjects they have no passion for because it will get them ‘better jobs’, call me idealistic – but is the doctor who is passionate about medicine not more admirable than the doctor who does not enjoy his job and never will? I will lead back to the introductory quote of Henrik Wilem Von Loon and ask, do the programmes, Misfits and Skins not introduce the problems with youth culture much more than any rambling politician? Then I say whole-heartedly that if Drama and Theatre Studies & Media Studies were stricken from the curriculum, I dread to think what would become of Britain’s young people with no contextual tools in the wake of a constantly transforming mono-culture and a media that is used frequently to create obedient consumers from birth.

 

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  • The Gipper

    I agree with you.
    As someone who was trained in science (at the government’s expense) even I know that art will save the world and not science. Our creativity, empathy and imitation came first. It spurred our curiosity which lead to the aspiration to learn and develop our sciences. We were drawing on cave walls long before we were looking down microscopes.
    And with the incredible tradition of arts and literature that the UK has to offer, it would be unfathomable for a government of any political stripe to take away the very subjects that we write about, that temper our passions for every other subject, and that provide inspiration to keep learning and appreciating the world around us.

    Keep hold of your passion, don’t listen to the naysayers and you will succeed. 🙂

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