In a recent New York Times – Room for debate series discussion, contributor, Cecilia Conrad (McArthur Fellows Foundation) stated, “Reports of the death of American creativity are an exaggeration.” While I have not combed through all of the various “reports,” it is a well known fact that funding for arts programs in public schools have been or are being cut significantly. This short-sighted approach toward meeting the ever increasing budgetary crunch has and will have many negative societal repercussions. In terms of innovation, which I believe is fueled by the profit motive, there are some public funds and private foundations that provide funding for new ideas in business/industry. There are also, some public funds and private foundations that provide funding for an extraordinary student(s) around the country, but what about everyone else? What does our model say about how much our society values creativity in general. Educators are familiar of how Howard Gardner clearly illustrates the existence of multiple ways of learning and the importance that “musical intelligence” (for example) plays in a child’s development.
Several pertinent questions come to the fore when considering the question of creativity and innovation. What values does our society place upon creativity? That is the root question. Are the creative arts just the domain of the wealthy and upper economic classes? If it is generally accepted that the arts are quite beneficial in the learning process to our children, why are they being squeezed out? Perhaps we should consider the question, what kind of people are being “produced” in our public schools. Is the production of automatons the goal? Are we producing simple beings that do not think creatively and also lacking critical thinking skills, just to dump them into the ever expanding low paid workforce?
The vast majority of our children attend public schools. Fortunately for us we are the majority. We can change the curriculum, insist on funding for the arts by voting for pro-public education candidates. Instead of sitting at home watching old recycled shows and movies, we can also support local arts/artist by going out and visiting a local gallery, checking out a local band, attending community theater, buying the books of local authors. We must not forget that we, everyday folks set the agenda. In fact, we are the agenda, and we must demand a complete curriculum that includes Art Education so that our children grow up to be well-rounded healthy citizens.