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Blog: Arts and sports are the essence of life – not optional extras

I was one of the 76,000 lucky people to attend Billy Joel’s one-night-only Australian concert at the MCG over the weekend. Wow!

I sat in the stands in awe at the ginormity of the MCG, where last I’d sat to watch the AFL in the back row. The next largest stadium I’ve ever been in is Nous Camp, Barcelona, at Iniesta’s final match. There’s nothing quite like the atmosphere of a full stadium to remind you that you’re alive. It’s something that only music and sport can really give us.

This MCG is also the same ground where Robbie Williams recently showed up in a hot pink suit, with all the empathy and grace he could muster to prove to Melbourne that we still had something to celebrate. Even with our icon, John Farnham lying in a hospital bed after an operation that means we’ll never hear his magic pipes again, Robbie managed to unite us around our favourite anthem of Farnham’s. Music simply brings people together. Artists like Robbie and Billy truly bring people together.

It has left me wondering… why is it that sports and arts are on the bottom of the hierarchy in the school curriculum? They are, after all, the largest healing and unifying forces of human culture next to religion. In fact, the arts are less divisive that both religion and sport. There were no brawls after the concert this weekend – because there were no enemies. We were all friends united in our love for great music. Strangers even sang together on the tram on the way to the concert. That’s how powerful art can be.

So much of the curriculum is based upon individual achievement and success – high scores in Maths, wordsmithing in English, etc. All exams are based on the individual. Portfolios are submitted by individuals. Students recieve individual reports. Even for sports and arts. It’s strange really. In work and life, it’s so rare that an achievement can be credited to only one person or one mind – if it we were honest with ourselves.

So why do I believe that sports and arts are the essence of life? Why do I believe they should be the heart and soul of the curriculum? Because they teach us what it is to be human. Because they connect us with our ancestors. Because they have and always will be our ‘culture’. They are our doorway to understanding one another – in all our differences and similarities. They are good for us. They heal us. They keep our bodies and minds healthy.

As we start to turn our backs on this pandemic (whether it’s over yet or not), please consider the positive benefits that an arts and sports rich school environment would provide. Most students would rather be engaging with these things anyway at the moment – or video games. Because these are the places where they find peace. And how can we deny them that in this crazy, upside-down world?

As the old shamanic saying goes when someone is ill:

Our whole world is sick and has been for the past three years. Maybe it’s time to start dancing, singing, engaging in stories, finding silence. Maybe arts and sports is exactly what we need to turn a corner here. They are what we had to live without during lockdowns. Let them now be the centre of life itself – in and out of school. Because it’s what’s we need most… because it unites us.

Have a great holiday season everyone.


Learn more about Janine, host of the Teacher Healer podcast.

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