Remember these kids ? Middle school kids. Awkward. Self-conscious. Shy. Well, months have passed, many rehearsals have happened, and they are now exploding across stage and running all technical aspects of their school drama club performance with presence, power, and passion.
And then there are these kids. High schoolers, many of whom are about to head to colleges all across the country, with proven strengths increativity, innovation, communication, collaboration, and intellectual curiosity--all critical skills needed for our changing world. And what about these kids? They are the poorest of the poor, chosen to be part of the 20-year-old African Children's Choir, traveling the world and singing, literally, for their lives. My friend Erin is doing a documentary about them titled Imba Means Sing.
All these children have found a way out through the arts. A way out of the overbearing test-focused bureaucracy or the lack of opportunities they see ahead of them. A way out of one-track thinking that stifles the brilliance of combining ideas across disciplines (such as what this man, Jesse Cramer, the Director of Improv at a local theater, is doing in his debut play ). A way out oflife with the joy sucked out of it.
And they have found a way in--to their reason for being on this earth, to what makes getting up and showing up worth it, to possibilities. And, once they have tasted this nectar of passion, no matter how often or how deeply the funding for their arts opportunities gets cut, they find a way. They sing in garages and street corners and clubs. They sing in the bathroom and back alleys and back seats of cars. They sing for their lives, because they know that the lives that many schools today show them as worth pursuing are simply not. (See Why Arts Education Is Critical to a Sustainable Future .) Here's a "spoken word" performance by a young man about the over-reliance on test results in our society to determine children's worth that I think is worth sharing with you. I don't believe the arts is the only way to break the hold of the testing chains, but I've seen it work so many times for so many people, it's hard not to, well,singits praises.