Arts education teaches better manners, & more preaching to the choir

Arts education teaches better manners, & more preaching to the choir

Jenna Simeonov

Over the past few weeks, I’ve felt the urge to rant about something, and not for the first time:

Put. Down. Your. Phone. At. Concerts. How hard is this? How damaged is your attention-span? How little do you care about your surroundings? You’re maddening.

Just yesterday, I watched in infuriated awe as a man, in plain view, shamelessly scrolled through his phone, and even kept nudging the woman beside him to look at something that was likely a waste of data.

In my own head, this kind of behaviour is linked to the importance of arts education. Maybe if this guy were exposed to more live music and art, he’d understand how disrespectful he was being, and he’d be open to the possibility of being entertained by something outside of his phone.

Arts education matters because it produces a population with fewer narcissistic, effort-allergic, xenophobic, phone-obsessed, close-minded people masquerading as “pragmatic.”

Blah, dee blah blah blah.

The problem is that you, readers, already know and understand this. You’re with me! You’re not assholes with your phones, and you know - either firsthand or indirectly - the value of arts education.

It’s a bit like making politically-charged posts on Facebook, even when 90% of your friends would vote similarly to you. When some car or motorcycle with a purposefully loud engine roars by me on the street, most of the people I know and like would agree that it’s annoying as &$%#, and not the least bit impressive.

What I’m saying is that confirmation bias is an issue, particularly in a corner of the internet like Schmopera. The people who don’t know they’re being rude with their phones likely aren’t reading this. The people who think arts education is a waste of money certainly aren’t seeking out opera-centric blogs. That asshole at the concert today will never read this and feel shame.

I wish I had a solution at hand, but maybe I’ll outsource it to you, readers. How do we make our points to the right people? Does being an artsy, liberally-inclined person also make you non-confrontational? Do we get irked without speaking up?* Should we grow a pair and speak up when someone’s being an ass with their phone?

Should we change our vocabulary? Should we represent ourselves differently? Are we missing an opportunity to speak to the “other side” in a way that doesn’t result in eye-rolling? If we make our case to the guy who was unashamed about his mid-concert phone use, will he ever understand our point?

Maybe more importantly: does being an artsy, liberally-inclined person make one less likely to vote for the people who could help the state of arts funding? Do we do a poor job of taking our heads out of our current artistic project long enough to be a savvy citizen?

In other words, as much as we love singers, how do we stop preaching to the choir?

*Yes, I didn’t speak up in my case either, but only because it would have meant yelling across a concert space to get this guy’s attention.

Feature image: Jeremy Brooks via Flickr.

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