In his State of the Union address, President Obama emphasized the need for math and science teachers in order to compete with the global marketplace in education. I’m disappointed that there wasn’t emphasis on the arts. And the republican congress isn’t doing much better, cutting funding for the National Endowment of the Arts. I’ve gone back and forth on this issue in my mind over the past couple of days. I’m a firm believer in a small government that is responsible for making laws and defending the people (Uncle Sam has his fingers in way to many pies, American and otherwise). But there is also waning interest in the arts, so if the gov raises awareness and education in the area of arts, I’m all for it.
Regardless, what the bureaucrats and politicians don’t understand is that the “tangible” subjects such as math and science don’t guarantee personal growth, the ability to communicate, or well-rounded critical thinking skills. I wish that the policy makers understood the value of liberal arts, of being well-rounded, of being able to read and write analytically and creatively. (See the success of Core Knowledge. Whether you agree with the philosophy or not, you can’t argue with the results!) Instead, the arts are the first subjects cut from colleges and high schools (mainly because they don’t bring in as much money as sports. I love sports , but I love art too.). Schools are cutting literature reading to strictly nonfiction because there isn’t a place for stories and poems in the work place.
For the first time in America’s history, we are falling behind the rest of the world in both motivation and learning. It’s foolish to think that cranking out math and science whizzes will fix the problem. But literature provides us with experiences we will never have first hand, forces us to deal with situations that don’t have clear-cut, black and white answers, and forces us to deal with our past, present, and future (Check out the guy who is publishing a copy of Huck Finn without the N word so that people won’t be offended by it. It makes about as much sense as banning Origin of Species because people are offended by it. Addition by subtraction eventually equals zero.)
Over-emphasizing math and science is not the answer, but I suppose there aren’t any affluent lobbyists in Washington that give a rip about the arts because there isn’t much money in it. And that’s what we’ve come, cut what doesn’t make money. Cut out the heart of mankind.