Why is drama important? Why do we teach drama in school? Do drama or the arts matter? These questions are not difficult to answer, yet there is a large amount of people that do not know or understand why drama is taught in schools. In a world that is ever changing to focus more on the sciences, it is increasingly difficult to argue the benefits of drama. As a student with a Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in drama, I could give a million reasons why drama is important. I have had to fight everyday to justify my profession and my passion to my peers, my elders, and the very university where I received my education. I believe that, through looking at the arguments against drama, the very essence of why drama is so important is revealed.
The first argument is that everyone can speak so why should we have to learn it. Time and time again you hear the same old tired scenarios: “Today we will be learning about…” says the professor in a hushed tone that makes a whisper jealous. “I need your undivided attention…” he says as he stares at the floor not noticing that his entire class is sleeping. Why is he staring at the floor? Why is he talking so quietly? Everyone knows that isn’t the qualities of a good speaker so why is this happening? Every person has had this experience whether it was a teacher, a relative, or a presenter and the list goes on and on. The reason this still happens is because, although we all learn how to speak, we do not learn how to speak in front of people so that they listen and are engaged. Public speaking is a skill that is difficult to learn even though it is an integral part of our society. Drama teaches students to speak in a manner that excites the senses and bolsters the confidence of the speaker. Drama allows students the freedom to express themselves in a safe environment that allows them to take chances that are not available to test in public. Allowing for mistakes as well as successes allows the speaker to gain valuable self-confidence in themselves as both a speaker and a person. This raises the student’s self-efficacy and allows them to speak in a more confident manner in all facets of their life. If everyone was allowed the same safe exploration that drama can provide, there wouldn’t be the old cliché of someone who knows everything about the material except how to make it exciting or interesting.
Creating an engaging speaker is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the effects of drama on communication. Once again, looking at the scenario above, the professor was unable to read the body language of the room or even notice that his class had “left the building.” Through studying drama, students learn to read the body language of their scene partners and can adapt that knowledge into “real world” scenarios such as interviews or dates. Drama allows students a safe environment to play out possible situations that they have or may encounter within their everyday lives that they may be anxious or apprehensive about without fear of the repercussions. Students effectively get a chance to practice “real life” scenarios which allows them to be more confident in their problem solving and speaking skills. Furthermore, it gives them invaluable experience reading nonverbal clues. It has been said that between 60-90% of all communication is nonverbal. Reading body language helps students pick up on social cues that allow them to quickly and smoothly change a potentially awkward situation. An example is approaching someone from behind and seeing they have slumped shoulders and are staring at their feet. Being adept at reading body language allows the person to understand that it would be more appropriate to ask if they are ok compared to walking up and saying “Great day isn’t it!!” In a world that has become so connected by and to technology, we have become disconnected from one another and our feelings. Drama gives speakers the chance to connect with people through advanced communication methods and gives people a way to connect through more than just words.
The second argument is that drama is easy and holds no merit in comparison to other “important” subjects such as science or math. Drama incorporates traits from the four types of VARK learner models: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. This helps students identify which type of learner they are and, in turn, helps them in every other aspect of school and further into their personal lives. It also allows different students to shine in the variety of drama activities that are targeted to the learning models (See Drama Activities Voice, Movement, and/or Acting). Through drama, students gain the necessary knowledge and confidence that allows them to excel in other subjects such as the sciences. In this regard, drama can be seen as an essential building block in learning because it builds confidence, self-efficacy, relationships, empathy, life skills, emotional intelligence, and so much more. Without a strong foundation anchored by the skills one learns in the drama classroom, many students will fall through the cracks and be unable to unlock their full potential. Further, drama allows students to develop all areas of Bloom’s Taxonomy throughout the class and gives students the skillsets that allow them to function on a higher level within not only the classroom but all facets of their life. When looking at drama through this lens, it is impossible not to see the link between drama and all other classes taught. Drama was never meant to be “hard.” Just as playing hockey or coding is easy for some people, drama may be easier for others. Yet, truly understanding and appreciating drama as both an art form and a learning tool is the especially difficult part. However, drama can be the Swiss Army Knife of skillsets that allow students to unlock their true potential and rise above a mediocre base education.
Before you knock it, go and experience a drama class. Who knows, maybe a small thread of this beautiful artistic tapestry will needle its way into your heart. Yet, it is up to those who do understand the work and commitment involved in drama and the arts as a whole to fight for it in whatever capacity they can. No matter how hard “the man” tries to stomp out the arts, the arts will not die because creativity is contained within every person. Drama gives that creativity room to grow and helps deliver those who accept it to new heights. I will fight tooth and nail for the arts especially drama to be taught to students because it made me the person I am today and gave me a skillset that I have been able to carry over into all aspects of my life. To me, drama is discovery, connection, and most of all, life. This is why drama is important.