I've been lurking for a while, but I have very strong feelings on this subject, particularly arts in education. Here goes my rant
It really bothers me to think that with government budget cuts education always takes a huge blow. Education develops our future. It's interesting what that reveals about our values as a society. I've seen entire elementary schools closed, middle schools consolidated, and university department cuts where I live.
Regarding the university level, I attend a large urban public school (40,000 students). Our business and engineering departments in particular have been graduating students that cannot write or communicate at a college level. The university hired a special tutoring staff for the business department. Someone might argue that these departments bring money into the school, but they faculty turns out machines that don't have any communication or analytic thinking skills. This is probably the only reason that the university hasn't made larger cuts to the English (my dept) and humanities departments. The English sector is so short on funding that faculty members look for grants in other departments, and the undergraduate literary journal receives no financial support from our own department.
Also, the importance of arts programs in schools isn't necessarily to create artists, but rather to foster creativity. For a scientist to make a groundbreaking discovery, they must think creatively, not in linear terms. Great thinkers in the sciences and technologies have the greatest creative capacities amongst their peers. Regarding doctors-- students who perform the best in medical school and onward are typically the ones that score the highest on the verbal portions of their tests. My friends studying medicine who score at the top of their class and will undoubtedly succeed, have strong backgrounds in music, art, literature, etc. Doctors must also know how to deal with real human beings.
The sciences are inherently creative and humanistic in their real applications. We communicate through language (most often narratives) and visuals in every field, and only creativity leads to innovation and real improvements. If anyone has been through a public high school lately, science and math curricula typically don't encourage creativity. Instead, those classes educate students out of the creativity that they will need in the future.
As a student of literature, I realize how ridiculous some of our abstract discussions of aesthetic theory might sound (and sometimes are). I do believe in the creative nature of arts, the communal nature of arts, and the ethical benefits of the arts. I also know that communities which value the arts along with the sciences, appear to foster not only the most innovation, but the most understanding amongst individuals. Beyond literature, arts unlike other academic disciplines educate the entire body, especially dance. One might connect this to our health problems in the United States.
I've grown up with both science and art (I studied engineering in high school). Regarding funding outside of schools, most of my dance education growing up has been at local community/recreation centers. While I've focused on literature (my field), I believe this discussion can be easily applied to visual and performing arts.
I'll stop there, but to supplement my rant, please watch this lecture by Sir Ken Robinson about creativity in education : www. youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY
He specifically mentions dance in education, and the educative hierarchies.
This is an interesting dialogue; there are lots of practical isssues and problems that could be addressed; I would add to the well known ones; human happiness and the well being of our children, the psychological state of depression which is increasing.
I think some government funding for arts is a good thing. But this gives rise to another debate ; how much say do I have in how my taxes are spent, and what would the implications be if i could choose where my taxes went.
I have been strugling with this dilemma since my meeting with the school carrers officer.
Everything that motivated me was to do with art; but I had a qualm of conscience whilst carrying out his questionnaire ( and blew the results) and started thinking about "oughts" I ought to help other people. But i think to follow ones heart is probably a stronger calling and more important. I have compromised and became an architect, but it has been a largely unsatisfying experience.
But consider: what would Christmas be like without trees lights and decorations;and if presents wernt wrapped.
other human needs are to celebrate the reilgious occasions, the turning of the seasons;
life, death, etc.
Jumping in late, as I don't often get to this section of the board.
1) I agree that different forms of creativity connect.
The Sunday after Thanksgiving, my 7-year-old daughter and I went to the exhibit Da Vinci: The Genius @ The Maryland Science Center. Da Vinci was amazing, very scientific, very technical, and yet also highly creative and imaginative. His work in one area inspired work in another. He dissected human bodies (scientific) because he thought knowing the body better would help his painting (artistic). He designed all kinds of machines, to satisfy both human needs (e.g., weapons of war) and dreams (e.g., flying).
Goethe is another great example. When I think of Goethe, the first thing that leaps to mind are his literary works, Faust, The Sorrows of Young Werther, etc. But he was also a color theorist, who dissented from Newton's view on color and light.
We live in a world where everyone is supposed to be so specialized, but studying different fields can inspire new thoughts.
2) Yes, there are problems with letting the government decide what is art. There are also problems with letting the market decide. Because by that standard, Twilight is one of the very greatest works of contemporary literature, and Eminem one of our greatest musicians. And maybe that's true, and the great democracy of taste should tell us what is "quality." But I don't think "best-seller" is necessarily synonymous with "great."
I understand how one could argue that it is elitist to support the arts and that there are greater needs. There are. Feeding the hungry is more important. But the arts actually aren't a big drain on the budget. I have looked up the cost of each day of the War in Iraq, and have found numbers ranging from 274 million to 720 million. That's PER DAY, JUST IRAQ, not including the war in Afghanistan. The NEA's 2009 budget was 155 million. So if we chose to take half a day off from the War in Iraq, that might well be enough to fund the arts for a year!
Obviously I'm being facetious, but there's a serious point here too: the arts are NOT even close to being a big ticket item that can engender serious savings if we don't fund that independent film. Yes, every little bit helps, but this is really a very little bit. And at what cost?
I was a serious beneficiary of arts education in school. I played three instruments, was in band and orchestra. Our band director was first rate. If you've ever heard of Blues Traveler, the harmonica player and the drummer were in my high school band. They made a career of it. Most of us didn't...but we learned from it, and many of us became part of a fan base for jazz and classical music. My life was enriched, even if I don't make my income from music.
iPods and Crayons
MACs and PCs
Gazillions of Websites
Every dance studio in every little town...
The HUUUUUUGE recording industry
Advertisements that get the crummy #$%!@D POLITICOS elected...
I am in the engineering profession, and we do facilitate so much in the world. That being said, since time immemorial, art and entertainment have been held at a premium in human existence. Throughout history, the arts have helped to transport people (no matter how impoverished or suffering) from their mundane and even bleak lives to something sublime, if only for moments at a time. Note how much we value music and cinema (a more recent human phenomenon) in our own lives.
I'm not sure how much I can add to the discussion as there have already been so many good points... Art isn't just fine arts or performing arts. It's creativity and innovation and it's in everything. The politician in the article seemed to have a very narrow and skewed view of "the arts" and it was very disheartening to read. "Ordinary Folks" might not care about galas and galleries, but if they're turning on the TV after a day of work for entertaining and relaxing... who does he think made that possible?
(I work at an advertising agency as an ART Director in the CREATIVE Department... in Chicago, where some of the top agencies are folding.)