‘Condemning poor children to a life without culture is a form of cruelty’

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This concerning article by The Guardian explains that, from music to sport, too many disadvantaged children are losing out on vital life-enhancing activities. A new study reports that children aged 10-15 from low-income families are three times less likely than wealthier peers to engage in out-of-school musical activities, such as learning an instrument or joining a choir or orchestra…

Here is the article originally published by The Guardian

Disadvantaged children in England are being priced out of a cultural hinterland. A Social Mobility Commission study, from the University of Bath, reports that children aged 10-15 from low-income families are three times less likely than wealthier peers to engage in out-of-school musical activities, such as learning an instrument or joining a choir or orchestra.

There were also differences according to race – 4% of British Pakistani children took part in music classes, compared with 28% of Indian children and 20% of white children – and regional divides: 9% of children in north-east England played a musical instrument, compared with 22% in the south-east.

Disadvantaged children are also more likely to miss out on extracurricular sports (football, boxing, cricket) and drama, dance and art. The commission set out recommendations, including bursaries, better funding and support for schools – let’s hope they’re taken on board. As well as the activities themselves, children are missing out on other crucial gains including confidence-building, team spirit and social skill, and are less likely to go on to higher education. As certain “creative” subjects don’t qualify for the English Baccalaureate (Ebacc) school performance measure, they may already be underfunded within cash-strapped schools, so some children are missing out even more.

Extracurricular activities tend to cost money, but there are also problems with a lack of availability and access, such as schools being unable to afford to run after-school clubs or stay open during holidays. Another barrier is the kids’ “fear of not fitting in”. In this sense, certain children are self-excluding from, say, learning an instrument, singing in a choir, playing cricket or acting. They decide by themselves that they’re “undeserving” of swaths of music, sport, art and drama. Unbelievably, in 2019, children as young as 10 are already hard-wired with the self-limiting poverty notion of “not for the likes of us”.

This is heartbreaking. It’s hardly news that life is tougher for poorer children, but it’s an outrage if all sense of curiosity, artistry and playfulness is knocked out of them so early. Something is wrong if better-off children feel entitled to explore and participate in areas that interest and excite them, while the disadvantaged are cast from the start as cultural wallflowers – doomed to sit out every dance. The result is full-blown structural elitism: one set of kids grows and thrives, the other is diverted on to a culturally sterile treadmill they could stay on for life.

This isn’t about every child learning the piano or violin (but why not?), it’s about sowing the seeds for a cultural hinterland that will sustain and enrich them for life. It’s about people exploring their passions and refusing to have their horizons artificially limited – avoiding a life stripped back to the pallid basics, memorably encapsulated by the Godfathers’ song, Birth, School, Work, Death. Regardless of circumstances, all children should know that their faces “fit” – automatically and forever. Culture belongs to everyone.

Source: www.theguardian.com/condemning-poor-children-to-a-life-without-culture-is-a-form-of-cruelty