We’re in a funk. Our inability to spend within our means coupled with lax regulation of key industries such as finance and housing has brought our country into a difficult economic recession, causing Americans to feel anxious and insecure. We look with disbelief at what’s happened and ask ourselves what we can do to turn things around. I propose that we undertake a national, government-sponsored, Arts integration project to incorporate the arts and creative thinking more deeply into our lives, starting with our children’s education.
The result will be a happier, more self-sustaining America and the evolution of a richer form of American innovation.The Arts and creativity serve us very well right now. They are natural outlets to convey how we’re feeling and they can also serve as assets, which, coupled with our pragmatism and focus on hard skills can help us craft this richer form of innovation to make us more competitive globally. This innovation, if cultivated properly, will engender more stories like Apple and Pixar and less stories like General Motors and Chrysler.
The timing for this creative evolution is critical as we continue our progression to an economy based on ideas and services while we continue to outsource many of our traditional industries to countries like India and China.If we’re going to get creative about our future, we must begin by abandoning any notion of the Arts as an elitist domain or contrary to our entrepreneurial nature.
Our country’s foundation and memory is imbued with compelling narratives such as the revolutionary war and the writing of our Constitution, and our creativity is part of what makes us so enterprising and unique. The rugged individualism and pioneering spirit that defined the nascent moments of this country was born of a desire for expansion, both in the physical and the intellectual capacity. In this sense, we would be reawakening an important part of our nation’s development, returning to fostering the ideas and ideals that fueled our country during one of its defining and singularly momentous periods of growth: The Industrial Revolution.
An intrinsic arts education program could be the spark for a 21st century renaissance with the same far-reaching effects politically, socially, and economically. We should also look at the global power of our own entertainment industry to remember what a profitable and strategic asset creativity can be.
But our creativity must go beyond Hollywood and consumption of popular culture; it must become part of a national mind shift across sectors of our society. And this shift towards more creativity needs to begin at the student level, ensuring that we’re preparing our children for the needs of a new and demanding economy based on the generation of innovative ideas.
Our current educational system doesn’t acknowledge the full potential of the Arts and has all but ignored Arts Education, putting it at the bottom of the school curriculum where it can easily be cut when budgets are reduced. This mindset has been exacerbated by the adoption of the “No Child Left Behind Program” and its near exclusive focus on standardized test scores as indicators of educational progress.
I propose that we act boldly to prime America for this century’s challenges and opportunities by making Arts education compulsory beginning at the primary level and continuing through high school. Arts education helps children improve their overall academic performance by making them more engaged and aware. The long-term benefits of Arts education are also attractive, resulting in a society more capable of critical thinking, creative problem solving, and effective communication and teamwork -all necessary skills in a creative economy.
Additionally, a greater focus on Arts education will foster new job opportunities for many of our nation’s artists, giving them a more seminal role in influencing the development of creative problem solving skills in our nation’s youth. .The business community also needs to readjust its thinking with regards to the arts and creativity, especially as diminished budgets necessitate more potent ways of working.
Companies need to do a better job at attracting and incorporating right-side thinkers, granting them the opportunity to challenge traditional modes of thinking and to come up with new and innovative solutions. For many of these companies the path towards greater creativity can be as simple and powerful as empowering creativity from current employees, something that, as Google has found out, not only makes for happier employees but also increases a company’s ability to innovate
So as President-elect Obama continues to execute an ambitious national program in place to stimulate American growth, I urge him to think about increasing the role of the Arts and creativity. To that end, I support the motion by many for the creation of a cabinet post of arts and culture, as revolutionary as the original creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. A Secretary of Culture could be instrumental in crafting a national strategy around the arts, including education, arts support and management, as well as breakthrough initiatives such as the addition of a cultural component to our foreign policy
The potential to leverage Arts to re-invigorate our country and our economy is vast and a massive cultural project could be the catalyst to make any stimulus package truly stimulating.