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Senior Capstone ℅ 2019

5-24-2019

Art Socialization: An Autoethnography

Fidel Aguas
Los Angeles Leadership Academy HS, ​faguas100923@laleadership.org
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Senior Capstone ℅ 2019

Abstract
The purpose of this essay is to discuss the effects of performing arts on young adolescents in

school. Students without participation in the performing arts do not perform as well in school as

student who do. Arts rich students form relationships and develop a sense a self through the

performing arts. So, it is clear that young adolescents who participate in the performing arts

during high school show a positive increase in academic and civic engagement, the expression

of self, and social relationships. Therefore, School districts need to better apply the performing

arts into their curriculum in order to achieve high student success. I declare that school policy

should change to include the performing arts in all four years of high school.

Keywords: ​performing arts, theatre, school, creative arts, education, socialization

Acknowledgements

I would like to acknowledge myself for doing it. I would also like to acknowledge all my peers

that peer-reviewed my drafts despite working on their own work. Thank You.
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Art Socialization: An Autoethnography

Fidel Daniel Aguas


Los Angeles Leadership Academy HS, Los Angeles, California, USA

The purpose of this essay is to discuss the effects of performing arts on young adolescents in

school. Students without participation in the performing arts do not perform as well in school as

student who do. Arts rich students form relationships and develop a sense a self through the

performing arts. So, it is clear that young adolescents who participate in the performing arts

during high school show a positive increase in academic and civic engagement, the expression

of self, and social relationships. Therefore, School districts need to better apply the performing

arts into their curriculum in order to achieve high student success. I declare that school policy

should change to include the performing arts in all four years of high school.

The Incident

As I pressed play on the controller, the TV screen turned black. Dark and quiet, until the

production cards of film were on. The intro of Step Up 3D conveyed, that many dancers can

come from all over the community. One thing united them. A common interest. A hobby. A

passion. Dance. The musicality, dancing on beat, of the movements. The flow of the

choreography. The focus was always on dancing as it is a form of expression more than the

actual dialogue from mouth to screen. The movement of the actors was just so intriguing from
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the moment I finished watching the dance film. I pondered, “Do people actually dance for a

living?” The dark evening passed outside my windows, and I pulled out my grey iPod 5 with a

gameboy design case. I jumped into Youtube, clicked on the search bar and typed, “Real dance

videos.” Many suggestions came up, but out of the pool of videos, there was this one video that

really caught my attention. A video of a thin, blonde girl as the thumbnail, that had one million

views. I clicked on it and watched all 2 minutes of “Chachi Gonzales- Like A Boy.” I

remember feeling as if I found a hidden gem yet to be discovered. The Youtube video

introduced me to the community of performers and choreographers that appreciated the art of

dance. To my surprise, the highest viewed videos showed young adolescent and teenage

dancers. It was then that I realized kids my age, late teens, were making a staple in the dance

community. I went on questioning, “What would stop me from pursuing a career in performing

art?” Ever since my discovery I took it upon myself to watch choreography videos to learn

from. When I dance, even if it is a simple groove to the music in the background, I feel good

and in the moment. My body heats up from the movement and my hands follow the rhythm of

the music. Dancing became a new found hobby of mine.

When I entered high school as a freshman, I became quite disappointed due to the lack

of performing arts available. I approached high school as a fresh start to my academic and social

life and really wanted to dance in high school. As the years dragged on, the courses available

for performing arts lessened throughout the years. Why? Why was not dance, theatre, music,

etc. valued as much as the three years required of Math, two years of Foreign Language, and

four years of English. Why was it that electives were limited to extensions of already required

classes to graduate? I speculated the school did not find importance in investing time and effort
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into the performing arts. However, I do see the significance Performing Arts in high school and

the impact it can have on young adolescents.

Analysis

Introduction

According to David Davies in his book ​Philosophy of the Performing Arts h​ e defines the

performing arts as,

The place of the performing arts in this new philosophical landscape is interesting, for

the very notion of “the performing arts” already imposes a structure on the arts. The

things usually grouped under this label – music, dance, and drama (2011, p. viii)

Essentially dance, music, and drama is what qualifies as a performing art. However, the

performing arts curriculum is very limited in high schools, today.

A journal titled, ​“Access to High School Arts Education: Why Student Participation

Matters as Much as Course Availability”​ by Thomas, Singh, ​Klopfenstein, and Henry​ shows the

correlation between the quantity of arts curriculum and the rate of student’s participation.

Thomas et al.’s research concluded that high schools that offered a substantial number of art

courses did not receive equally high student participation… however, small sized schools did

have a high rate of student participation due to the fact that because courses were limited,

students wanted to be part of them even more (2013). For the four years that I have been in high

school, I waited patiently for a performing arts elective or course. Eventually, I got tired of

waiting and started my own dance club. The students that participated really enjoyed it. The

dance club instructor was my advisor and he really tried his best to teach us what he knew about

dancing.
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Through personal experience and research from other people’s experiences, as an

instructor or student, it becomes apparent that participation in the performing arts can be very

beneficial. Especially during a time in which high school students are trying finding themselves

and identify who they are as people. The transition from teen to young adolescent differs for

everyone, however research has largely implied that taking part in performing arts courses can

help students overall.

Study of Focus

Taking a performing arts course is much more and goes beyond what you learn in class.

Students can take what they learn and value it outside of school. Dr. ​Linda F. Nathan states,

“The place where young people feel the safest, where young people feel they can be themselves

is almost always the arts teacher’s classroom” (2013, minute 17:59). ​Even academically,

students who have experienced a form of the performing arts do well in school, compared to

those who do not. Therefore, ​it is clear that young adolescents who participate in the performing

arts during high school show a positive increase in academic and civic engagement, the

expression of self, and social relationships.

Academic and Civic Engagement

Students who participated in the performing arts during high school experienced a

growth in academic improvement and civic engagement. For example,​ ​James S. Catterall (2012)

states in his report “The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth”, “Students with arts-rich

experiences attended some sort of college after high school… and more than twice as many

high-arts students, compared with low-arts students in that group, attended a four-year college”

(p.10). Most high school districts tend to focus on the rate their students attend college right
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afterwards. They look at test scores and other

academic achievements in order to better

promote their schools. When it comes to the

continuation of school, the performing arts

greatly helps in that approach.

Furthermore, high-arts students took

interest in current affairs by volunteering and

voting compared to low-arts students. Catterall

(2012) explains, “Young adults who had

intensive arts experiences in high school are

more likely to show civic-minded behavior than young adults who did not. They take an interest

in current affairs, as evidenced by comparatively high levels of volunteering, voting, and

engagement with local or school politics” (p.18). Community is another aspect in which high

school districts take pride on. If their students can demonstrate high levels of involvement in

their communities, then it shows they are directing young adolescents in the right path. Students

with art rich experiences tend to excel in both school and community participation. The reason

is because arts engagement gives young adolescents encouragement to strive for better through

the creativity performing arts provides.

Social Relationships

Through participation in the performing arts, students learn to develop their social skills

in communication and relationships. Art gives students a safe place to talk about their

differences. In ​Dr. Linda F. Nathan’s (2013) ​TEDx Talk​ she says, “​Back in early 80s, when
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gang warfare was on the rise, theatre gave us a safe place in which to talks about our

differences” (minute 6:16). In the video she further explains how her students were able to put

all their differences aside and form close connections with other students through school theatre.

Nathan (2013) celebrated her students culture by putting on show on campus. In fact, her free

theatre program was eventually at its capacity and students still had a strong desire to join

(minute 2:14). This goes to show the relationships that can be formed when participating in

theatre.

Additionally,​ ​in another TEDx Talk video by Rachel Harry (2017), she reveals

“​Embracing diversity requires the ability to acknowledge and accept the strengths and

weaknesses of others without judgement, and accept the strengths and weaknesses within

ourselves” (minute 5:46). Through Harry’s experiences as a theatre instructor, she saw the

caring environment her students provided towards each other and how they would not judge one

another in order to fully embrace being in theatre. Similarly, when me and my associates were

in dance club we participated in team building exercises. This allowed us to dance freely

without feeling like we were judging each other.

Expression of Self

Being able to express themselves freely with a sense of purpose, students can take full

advantage of performing arts. Dr. Nathan (2013) further explains,

I have watched students develop a form of artistic identity that blends their reputations

in school, with their reputation outside of school through the Arts. These kinds of things,

give young people a chance to really develop a vision of self (minute 10:34)
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High school is a time where young adolescents find ways to better understand themselves.

Forming an artistic identity can really help with the expression of self, as performing arts

requires students to indulge themselves to the activities while being the most creative they can

be. For instance, when people excel in a activity under the performing arts label, they identify

themselves with that particular skill. If an adolescent has musical skills they would identify

themselves as a musician, if they have dancing skills then they would be a dancer, and so forth.

Susan Bidwell (2014) takes a cognitive approach and finds, “A dominant theme was that

participants were eager to engage in activities that would provide a sense of purpose to lives that

were otherwise characterised by isolation and monotony” (p. 7-8). Health can be associated

with the performing arts. In this study, Bidwell (2014) found the participants cared for their

health more and did what they could in order to feel better by the performing arts. Specifically,

in high school when students are usually always overwhelmed with school work it is beneficial

to partake in performing arts activities. As it would help students focus and relax from all the

pressure.

Opinion

Based on the research I personally believe that performing arts courses could help me

achieve more in school and in my personal life. I could have higher grades and better social

relationships with others. Dr Nathan claims, ​“If you can create schools that really stand for

something, we actually have a prayer at making society a better place” (2013, minute 6:45). She

is beyond correct. ​I do agree with the research, participation in the performing arts is very

beneficial in more ways than one. My school district does not provide much because they
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believe the benefits do not outweigh the cost. However, performing arts as a subject in schools

are undermined by the fact that they do not add statistical value to such schools.

Conclusion

Looking at the positive effects performing arts has on high school students it is clear

that, through academic and civic involvement, a form of artistic identity, and development of

relationships with peers; School districts need to better apply the performing arts into their

curriculum in order to achieve high student success. School policy should change to include the

performing arts in all four years of high school. I believe by changing the curriculums, students

can take full advantage off all the benefits the performing arts provides and thus make schools a

better environment.
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References

Bidwell, S. (2014). “The Arts in Health: Evidence From The International

Literature.”​Population Health and Community Engagement​. Retrieved from

https://www.creativenz.govt.nz/assets/ckeditor/attachments/1058/the_arts_in_health_evi

dence_from_the_international_literature.pdf?1411611918

Catterall, J. S., Dumais, S. A., Thompson, G. H. (2012). “The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk

Youth: Findings from Four Longitudinal Studies.” ​National Endowment for the Arts.​

Retrieved from ​https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED530822.pdf

Davies, D., (2011). ​Philosophy of the Performing Arts​. ​Wiley-Blackwell.​ Retrieved from

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/9781444343458.fmatter

Harry, B. ​(2017, November 13). “How theatre education can save the world.” [Youtube].

TEDxMtHood.​ ​ ​Retrieved from ​https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vh2tNfTTbUU

Nathan, L. F. (2013, April 1). ​“Why Art Matters.” [Youtube]. ​TEDxTheCalhounSchool.

Retrieved from​ ​https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Odbcty42MaM

Thomas, M. K, Singh, P., Klopfenstein, K., Henry, T. C. (2013). “Access to High School Arts

Education: Why Student Participation Matters as Much as Course Availability.”

Education Policy Analysis Archives​. Retrieved from

https://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/1224