New Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, is picking up where Michael Gove left off: belittling the arts, and their value in education. She has warned young people that studying arts subjects could “hold them back for the rest of their lives” and encouraged students to study maths or the sciences in order to stand a better chance later in life. This strikes me as snobbery of the highest degree and a shameful, reckless thing for an education secretary to say.

The National Union of Teachers noted in response that downgrading a focus on the arts is “the wrong message”. National Drama chair Patrice Baldwin has added his voice by describing Ms Morgan’s comments as “myopic” and adding that “the arts develop skills that are useful in many jobs”. The Education Secretary’s assumption is that the criteria by which everyone judges the quality and success of their lives are how much power they are in a position to hold or how much money they can earn. This is far from the truth for the majority of the population.

Has the Education Secretary not realised the massive contribution the arts make to the UK economy?

Some people will choose to study and exclusively focus on the arts… but this is because they aim to forge a career in the arts, which doesn’t seem to make sense to Ms Morgan. Like any career, the arts require proper training and are not something just anyone can fall into: they can be a hobby for many but at the top of the field talent needs to be nurtured in order to succeed. Many employed in the arts don’t earn a great deal of money and a great many struggle to make ends meet. But ask them if they would ever consider changing their choice of career and most would tell you they wouldn’t dream of it. The fact they get to engage daily in their passion is the kind of fulfillment that money and power simply cannot bring. Everyone has a right to choose what career to pursue and what kind of life they choose to live, even if they never earn a great deal of money. After all, material wealth is far from the only thing most people live for.

Studying the arts does bring a wealth of life skills that could be useful in a number of different jobs and are greatly beneficial to our society. Public speaking, for instance, can be nurtured through studying drama and perhaps a number of  politicians could do with brushing up their abilities in this discipline. Studying music and playing in an orchestra or band promotes collaboration and discipline from an early age. Students of the arts are often versatile, adaptable and good and coming up with creative solutions, useful traits in any productive environment.

The  assumption is that the criteria by which everyone judges the quality and success of their lives [is] how much money they can earn which is far from the truth for the majority of the population.

I wonder if the Education Secretary has realised the massive contribution the arts make to the UK economy? Or how from T.V to theatre, radio, music, fashion and so on, our lives revolve around the creativity the arts bring? When a scientist or mathematician comes home from work what do they do? They switch on their T.V or listen to music to help them unwind. I have no doubt that the Education Secretary herself enjoys and takes comfort in more than one of the aforementioned mediums.

Without the arts we would have no escapism from the monotony of our lives. And without that, no matter how much money we earn, would life even be bearable? How rich is man without that which encompasses so much of our lives? We should be encouraging our young people to have dreams, tend to their passions and use their creativity. Under the current government the uptake of arts subjects has already decreased and we risk discouraging and scaring off the next generation of artists and performers.

Creativity and self-expression is the bedrock of our existence, without it we might as well be robots –  which begs the question, what kind of society do those in power really want us to live in?

Image rights; teo_ladodicivideo

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Sam Chipman

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Actor, singer, saxophonist and theatre reviewer - Lover of Musical theatre, literature, wine and cups of tea. Member of The Labour Party.