Arts Education and Letters and Opinion

Children need broad education

January 22, 2011

I applaud Bruce Hetrick’s column (Jan. 10, “Why this public-school baby fears school reform”) for its keen observations about the value of education in the arts and humanities. We subscribers and readers have had the good fortune of seeing similar insights shared by columnists Morton Marcus and Frank Basile over the years.

Hetrick rightly points out the gains that students realize from learning in subjects and disciplines that feature complexity, creativity, the presence of multiple points of view, and the opportunity for multiple interpretations. The social value of this education—to say nothing of the personal intellectual growth it fosters—is not only great but growing. As many have observed, the 21st century already is and will continue to be a time when innovation and creativity, and the capabilities to deal with complexity and diversity, are drivers of economic and social progress.

The arts and humanities—and I think it is important to add the social sciences—are critical to our and our students’ future success for an additional reason, and that is the globalization of economic and other forms of human interaction. Employers need people who—in addition to their workplace roles and skills—can communicate and form relationships all over the world. We want people whom we can send anywhere to represent us—via airplane or via Skype—and who know enough about the geography, history, culture, politics and government, and economy of those places to interact effectively and productively.

And facility in additional languages has never been more important. As many employers have commented and many surveys of employers have found, employers are perfectly willing to train employees in job-specific tasks and skills; what they need are people who come to the workplace able to communicate effectively, interact constructively with others within and outside the workplace, and find their way around in the world. Those are not the skills employers want to be responsible for supplying; that’s what they want schools (and especially colleges and universities) to do.

Promoting and expanding the education of young people in the arts, humanities and social sciences in addition to mathematics and the physical sciences is vital for the future of Indianapolis. Thanks to IBJ for keeping that viewpoint prominent in our civic discussions of education and its improvement.

William Blomquist
Dean
Indiana University School of Liberal Arts, IUPUI
 

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