Personal Expression as an Educational Objective

I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to begin this post by focusing back on the title: Creative Expression as an Educational Objective. That’s a mouthful – and it takes a minute to digest! Hmm, could it be saying that creative self-expression should be a goal of education?

Before COVID, many traditionally trained adults would have called that preposterous, dismissing it as airy, new-age thinking. But times are changing, and the pandemic has opened us to ask questions that many never before considered. So perhaps now we can go to that question: what should the goal of education be? That isn’t a big scratch-your-head-and-ponder question … at least I don’t believe it is.

An Experiential Look at Education

A good way to answer that question is to first consider what the goal of education has historically been – and, to a great extent, still is. To do that, we can look at what it’s produced.

Let’s take you, for example. (Really! It will make this exercise experiential and deliberate). No matter where you were raised, chances are you had a “traditional”, intellectually based education that did not include much in the way of creative expression. Nevertheless, you made it through that experience (and may have done well) and you are where you are today.

Where are you, really? You have probably been alive for at least 30 years … do you know why you’re alive? You have been you for at least that long … do you know who you are? Chances are that even if you can answer those questions to a certain extent, you don’t have a truly satisfying sense of who you are because your upbringing and education didn’t empower you to ask those questions and search for answers.

I am not, by the way, suggesting you blame your upbringing or ‘the system’ – there’s no benefit in that, you’ll just go down the rabbit’s hole. I am, however, suggesting that you might begin to ask those questions both for yourself and your children.

The Catch

There’s just one catch. That intellectually-focused education you had – the same one your children are receiving? It won’t be of any use here because the answers you’re looking for are not intellectual. In fact, your intellect isn’t capable of discovering those answers.

The answers to those most important questions lie below the mind in your ‘nature’, I’ll call it. Your beingness. Your who you are. And you need to go there to get your answers.

So how do you get there? You take Albert Einstein’s advice. Well, Einstein didn’t exactly advise others to do what he did – but who can argue? Einstein specifically attributed his famous discovery (E = mc2) to his involvement with music:

It occurred to me by intuition, and music was the driving force behind that intuition. My discovery was the result of musical perception.

So, how can you discover who you are? Dive below your intellect via – you guessed it – creative expression.

Creative Expression

Have you ever watched musicians’ faces when they’re deep into playing, expressing a tune’s meaning – what it means to them? It’s something like the look on your children’s faces when they’re deep into creative play, oblivious to the world and simply into creating their enjoyment. It’s pure and intense and often close to sublime. That’s because they’re accessing their creative, intuitive place – an important aspect of who they are.

Why Creative Expression Should be a Goal of Education

You probably get it now. Isn’t it a shame that instead of developing our ability to access and learn and live from that place, education tamps it down?

Enlivening the creative process is the most important educational objective of all because it’s the creative process that gives answers to the question of what it means to become human. What else is worth knowing if you don’t know who you are? Know that, and you can do just about anything you want to do.

All of us have innate abilities to learn on our own in this way, but if you consider the mediocre education or even trauma that so many people experience, you can understand why those abilities are submerged.

An education based in creativity and self-expression frees up the learning process, opening the dams and blockages to liberate our natural abilities.  If the teacher is really teaching in an in-depth way, a common ground is created for the student and teacher, a shared experience of the human condition.

The Music Teacher as Guide and Mentor

Ultimately we all teach ourselves: we must, in order to own who we are.

In his book Venturing Together, educator and composer Bill Rossi suggests that a truly creative education can even do more than open blockages:

In a way, a creative teaching approach enables teachers to introduce their students to themselves, giving them the confidence they need to become their own best teacher. Ultimately, we all teach ourselves. We must, in order to be our own person. We should look at our [teaching] jobs with this perspective so that we don’t impose ourselves on our students. When we model the behavior of creative, mature human beings we empower them to find their own way.

Are the Arts a Frill?

Although the arts are often the one thing many students really want to do, the arts are usually, at best, minimally available to them. Not only that, but if they are offered, they are presented in such a stock, soulless way that many students want no part of it.

It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing* is a wonderful phrase that says it well, but what students are typically offered throughout their many years of education doesn’t even have a beat. (* Lyrics from a Duke Ellington song.)

Ready to Dance to the Beat of Your Own Drummer?

If you’d like more, our post about The Benefits of Music Lessons touches on some of this. Or just contact us today to learn more about how our talented teachers can help you and your children discover your inner drummer!

About the author : Mary Helen Rossi

Mary Helen is the on-staff creative writer at Courtnay & Rowe Academy and The Music Studio Atlanta.

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