Many people argue that art education for children, particularly in primary school, is not as important as mathematics and natural science. Some point out there is no choice, for whoever wants to fight in the future must deal with mathematics and science. I agree to some extent; however, saying art education is not important is also hasty and unreasonable.
Art education holds a strong position in developing children’s skill and creativity. Many parents do not recognize the tremendous potential and are unaware how important it is to educate their children in this field in addition to other disciplines in school. Children are sometimes forced to take courses relating to science such as mathematics, biology, physics and statistics without being asked whether they like the subjects.
Commonly we hear negative statements from some parents; what do you want to be as an artist, and how can you fulfill your life as a painter or musician?
Becoming an artist nowadays is so open and full of possibilities to be successful. Art has become a sphere of development and reservoir of humankind, especially in the developed world. In the United States and Europe, art has a strategic position in the society and deserves a highly respected space. Painting and sculpture in the house symbolize modern people and the presence of artwork can explain to us the history of human beings by seeing what art earlier generations produced.
Every child has tendencies and inclinations for specific fields. Parents sometimes force children into one specific field because of their desire to see their children “seem” smart. A doctor or astronaut must be smarter than a child who wants to play the piano, the thinking goes. This kind of thinking, though, is detrimental to a child’s development.
Children will follow a parent’s chosen course of study without conviction because they think it’s only the desire of their parents. Children then turn lazy. They like music or painting, so why should they follow a course of study that is not their desire?
Pushing them and neglecting their potential in the art field will not only create a stark identity, when perhaps in their future career they will be successful as an expert in one of the science fields, but also they will lose their empathy, care and feeling. And this is so sad.
By learning art education, children will exercise how to apply their feelings by respecting the environment, other people, animals, etc. The essence of art education is to teach them how to respect life itself. Exercising the sense, care, heart, mind and feeling will be able to drive children to go forward and spread peace and pure knowledge. Of course, we do not hope to have our children become “robots”, being smart on thinking but losing their humanity as human beings.
There are also some obvious examples that art offers a wide space to be successful. Michael Jackson, Ronald Reagan (a former artist and U.S. president), Arnold Schwarzenegger (governor of California), etc, are examples of where we can benefit by going beyond in this field.
I believe shaping a smart identity for children must involve an artistic attitude and should begin when our children enter primary school. Looking at their potential and not pushing them to like what we like will bear Indonesian leaders who understand how to build this country as a nation of dignity.
In this age, every discipline fuses in an interdisciplinary manner, and art holds the same value as other disciplines to establish a smart, fighting identity for our children.
The writer is a fellow of the International Fellowship Program (IFP) Ford Foundation and a graduate student of fine arts at the Utrecht School of the Arts (HKU) in the Netherlands.
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