Sunday, November 28, 2010

Science, Math and the Arts

Good morning.
Welcome back to work and I hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

“And the beat goes on………………….”

Moving the Minds:

John Maeda, graphic designer and computer scientist, and President of the Rhode Island School of Design, argues “that scientists need art and artists in their professional lives in order to invent and innovate successfully, and with a particular focus on education he has toured the world to promote the idea that government-approved "Stem" subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) should be widened to include art; "turning Stem into Steam," as he puts it. Click here to go to the article

According to Maeda the answer to the question: Why does science need artists? is precisely what we have been preaching for a long time: “We seem to forget that innovation doesn't just come from equations or new kinds of chemicals, it comes from a human place. Innovation in the sciences is always linked in some way, either directly or indirectly, to a human experience. And human experiences happen through engaging with the arts – listening to music, say, or seeing a piece of art.”  Bravo!

While the U.S. Department of Education now includes art as a core subject along with math and science, in many, if not most, local districts it is not treated the same – neither as a priority nor in the allocation of funds, resources, teachers, within schedules or classroom assignments. Business and industry, especially in the high tech sector, has for decades now made prioritizing science and math education one of its highest priorities, and with marked success – at least in terms of embedding the idea that math and science education are critical to our national future.

Yet we still haven’t gotten that far in including the arts in the national psyche as equally important. We've been trying for a long time to make the case for the relationship between arts and science and math and for making the arts an equal priority.  Perhaps we have spent too much focus on working with the businessmen who run the industries and companies that tout science and math, but ignore the arts. Perhaps we should focus more on a dialogue and cooperative joint effort with the scientists and mathematicians themselves – for it may just be that those people “get it”, while their employers simply do not.

I remember reading an article years ago (that I have unsuccessfully tried to chase down) that claimed that a very high percentage (in the 90s) of all recipients of Nobel Prizes (including in all the sciences) were practicing artists – amateur not professional – but neither spectators nor patrons, but actual practitioners (musicians, writers, designers, thespians, even dancers) - and that they claimed the arts were essential to their ability to do their work. I don't find that surprising. 

I would like to see the NEA, the President's Committee on the Arts & Humanities, or some national arts organization find a way to sponsor the bringing together artists and scientists and mathematicians and let them have a conversation about the importance of each discipline one to the other, how those relationships work, and how we might integrate all of them into our education portfolio. And after (and only after) that gathering you could bring in the educators, and arts administrators and the business and industry employers to talk about how we might implement the recommendations of those on the front lines.  At least we might shine a spotlight on the issue and gain some media attention. 

Have a great week.

Sé4A 2012

Don’t Quit