For years I watched as the arts programs in my kids' schools were slashed - art class gave way to more science classes, gym class was reduced to one hour a week, and computer science was anointed the new king of them all. Not that I have anything against computers. Heck, my relationship with my laptop falls just short of carnal. (Now there's a sentence you don't want taken out of context.) But I argued that kids in kindergarten didn't need computer skills as much as social skills and that it was more important to nurture and encourage their innate creativity.
My proposal fell on deaf ears so I did what a lot of stay-at-home moms armed with degrees and work experience did at that time - I volunteered for a lunchtime enrichment program. If the school board wasn't going to offer more opportunities for creativity, then volunteers would organize it and offer it to the children outside of school hours. You want to learn the trumpet? Done. You want to take karate lessons? Done. Paint, dance a Highland Fling and sing in a chorus? Done, done, done.
This TED lecture by Sir Ken Robinson articulates everything I was trying to argue back then. All three of my children studied Liberal Arts before they went on to specialize in their various fields of interest (English Literature and Political Science, Finance and Economics, and Fine Arts and Literature as it turns out.) With a grounding in liberal arts, they learned how to think, developed the skills necessary to communicate effectively, and most importantly, they gained a lifelong passion for learning. If you want to run a company, it helps to know a bit about the world at large, don't you think?
Some salient points Robinson makes:
1. Creativity is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.
2. If you're not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original.
3. We stigmatize mistakes, and we're educating people out of their creative capacities.
"Picasso said all children are born artists. We don't grow into creativity, we grow out of it, or rather we get educated out of it."
Everywhere, around the world, is the hierarchy of subjects in any school system.
Mathematics and languages is at the top.
Humanities comes next.
The arts are at the bottom.
He speaks of "a new ecology of the mind" just like the one we apply to the earth. "Our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology one in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity. Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth: for a particular commodity. And for the future, it won't serve us. We have to re-think the fundamental principles on which we're educating our children."
Thanks to kcdyer and jamesmccann for bringing this to my attention. It's brilliantly funny and uplifting, and its message is clear and true. Put aside 20 minutes and have a listen. It's well worth it, for the Shakespeare bits alone.