Defending arts education funding: we’re doing it wrong

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Oh, there’s good reasons for that. We’ve fallen into a trap, you see. The justification for funding education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is “it prepares our children to get a job in tomorrow’s economy.” And we don’t need justification for training doctors, lawyers, or financial gurus. Everybody nods their heads and says “oh yeah, we need those.”

This trap has two snares in it. Ones is the idea that people are typed by their profession. But consider humans about 10k-30k years ago: there was no such thing as “science” as a separate activity from just “being human.” There must have been some division of labor roles, sure, based in part on physiology and age. Men probably didn’t nurse babies, and the very old probably didn’t hunt. You ask the big person to carry the heavy thing. But apart from the tribal leader and maybe also a shaman-type, when it came to architecture or clothing, hunting or gathering—you did it, or you died. The professions weren’t siloed. To simplify, and adopt a bit of an idyllic view: people were just people.

The other snare is the idea that the sole (or primary) role of education is to prepare children to perform a job in the economy for about 50 years. We no longer make an investment in developing people to be fully human; that’s an extra-vocational activity, done by few and on a purely voluntary basis, largely on their own dime—a dime they earn from participating in the economy. Continue reading “Defending arts education funding: we’re doing it wrong”