Why Schools Need More Drama Education

One of the most memorable learning experiences in my days as a grade schooler didn’t take place inside a classroom, but rather on the stage of my quaint elementary school’s small auditorium. A traveling acting duo–a man and woman, whose names I’ve sadly forgotten– stopped by our school to sweep us up in a two-day improv training experience, where the children of my grade got to romp about on stage and build upon a variety of kid-imagined scenarios in the name of theater. I found the whole thing amazing, and it connected me and my classmates in a way that I had never experienced before. Though I had no formal knowledge of the technical benefits of drama instruction, I knew even then that this was something everyone should experience. 

As I would find out years later, my brief but exciting peek into the world of performance art is and was a relatively rare experience–and it shouldn’t be! Schools even now are far more concerned with sports than the arts. In fact, a study found that only 4% of all public elementary schools offered theater instruction, and less than 50% of public secondary schools offered theater instruction during the school day. It’s a shame, considering that theater ed is more important than you’d think. In addition to building social and communication skills overall, involvement in drama courses and performance has been shown to improve students’ self-esteem as well as their confidence in their academic abilities, especially with reading comprehension and literature. 

According to the Arthur Miller Foundation, drama education can even improve one’s social skills and can help develop a strong sense of self. Theater teaches essential soft skills that “foster empathy and effective interactions with others”, aiding in human development regardless of one’s career path–and that’s something that definitely resonates. While I only got to experiment with theater in an academic setting once more before graduating high school, it still stands out to me as one of the only times in school I could let loose and engage in a deeply creative way with my peers. 

In all, drama and theater need to be a regular part of a well-rounded public education. The continuous fight for more inclusive arts education in schools that prioritize sports funding is nothing new, and with modern curriculums neglecting such a crucial part of the arts, I feel as if we’re doing both our current and future generations a terrible disservice. Drama and theater can not only enhance a student’s academic ability, but can give them the opportunity to understand the world through one of the human race’s most ancient, personally expressive art forms.


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