De-emphasizing the arts seems to be a growing trend in recent memory. I’ve had many discussions with people who feel that some of the arts should be dropped entirely in favor of technical courses and training. They argue that funding is wasted on musical instruments, for example, when the school can upgrade the computer network and have newer PCs for students instead. Many will argue that we are losing ground to other countries that expose their children to more STEM classes. These are all valid arguments, and our educational system should fully embrace all the benefits of science, technology, engineering, and math classes. A solid base in these areas is critical.
Life is about balance. Finding the right balance is the key to so many things, whether it’s professional success or life happiness. Glancing back at my education, I feel lucky to have experienced a good balance. Sure, I didn’t care much for some things, and actually suffered through a dance class during my freshman year in high school. However, these classes and activities taught a sense of creativity that is not taught in strictly professional or trade classes.
Art, music, or even dance classes often will not directly translate to anything tangible for those who are working in business or engineering. I remember being in college and needing to take some electives, and some requirements that were out of my field. It’s easy to complain and question the logic. If someone is studying business, why would they want to take an archaeology or music class? What can be the benefit from these classes? It opens the mind. Things are seen differently, and from different perspectives.
In my mind, having a solid foundation is key for innovation and engineering. Having the skill set for solving complex equations, to write a program, or to start a business require essential skills from these specializations. However, with creative skills, these people will not just create something relevant for their field or business, but can see things differently. Would an iMac have been created by someone who only cared about creating code, or having a functional computer? The marriage of true innovation and design requires more than just the technical skills, but a complete package of creativity and functionality. This is the balance we should seek; a marriage of creativity to that of functionality and the technical. If this balance is not taught to our children, finding this balance later in life will more challenging.
I love looking back at old technology. I still remember our first computer, the IBM PC/XT. This was the early 1980s, and the thing was just a mammoth box. When computers began to incorporate mice into the setup, those were simply square boxes with two buttons (one if you had a Mac). The lack of design is glaring when looking back. The technology was limited, but what was developed was strictly functional. Functionality is vital, and it’s better to have a functional box versus a sleek, stylized computer that doesn’t work. However, innovation and design does not have to be an either/or scenario.
Society has never been more globalized, and the ability to modify and further develop existing technologies is important. The ability to design and invent is vital. However, the ability to lead society to the future will be more effective when those leading the way are innovative and able to be creative. They may not need to write music or paint a picture, but the ability to tap into creativity is the perfect complement for the technical and engineering elements.
Dropping the arts from our schools may seem like a good money saving idea, but I argue that it will be more costly as we move into the future. Building a balance early on in our schools seems like a great forward thinking idea to me. We need to always think about how our decisions shape the future.