The Role of Art in Our Violent World

Violence is all around us. And, as an educator and parent, I worry about how our children (of all ages and at all stages) will deal with this violence. Whether it is violence in the streets or in one’s community or violence abroad, it has an impact on how we see our world. It impacts our behavior.

How can kids express their own anger and fears? How can kids share what the violence is doing to them? How can kids see the value in change and making the world a better place? How can we temper the media’s reach?

There is no simple answer and there is not one pathway. But, surely art — especially public art — is one avenue well worth pursing, and there are data supporting this view. (See the work of the Urban Institute.)

Expression — through art — in the streets and on the walls and in the halls of public places, all created by youth, has power. And so does art shared with youth through signage and posters and marches. In fact, that is one of the central themes of the book Teach Our Children Well, a compilation of signs and essays on the post-inaugural marches.

There is an upcoming panel at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute that is worth attending (and I am hoping it is webcast or podcast). Link is below. It probes how art can encourage civic engagement for children across the nation (globe) and there are two examples now hanging at the Institute, Ponder the role of art as an enabler of expression — particularly projects that are not solipsistic. Consider art creations as ways of group expression — voicing what our voices cannot say or voices that will not be listened too.

Protest art can take many forms — plays, music, dance. Visual art is one key way to protest, to be heard, to express. How valuable is it to “let out” what we feel and what we want to say? Bottling it in does not work. Then, it erupts.

Art as a form of expression for kids cannot be underestimated. And, given the state of our world and its violence at every turn, how valuable is it to enable kids to voice their vision for our nations and the existing threats? Invaluable.

Come to this program if you are free and in Boston: https://www.emkinstitute.org/explore-the-institute/public-events-programs/public/art-activism-civicengagement

And, listen to Crosby Stills Nash and Young sing: Teach Your Children Well. Its message — from decades ago — still have power.

Help our children — through art among other avenues. Our collective future depends on it.

Written by

Author, Educator & Commentator; Former President, Southern Vermont College; Former Senior Policy Advisor, US Dept. of Education; Former Law Professor

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