Eleanor and I just did an interview for the ABC affiliate in Washington, DC. Their wonderful anchor, Rebecca Cooper, was playing devil’s advocate asking why kids today need to learn about art. Isn’t it more important to learn about math and science so we can compete with up-and-coming giants like China and India?
In our increasingly tech-savvy world, it seems to make sense to push science and math, but what truly makes America great? Innovation and creative problem solving. Envisioning something new takes creativity and an agile mind able to think in ways that others don’t.
For many years, schools throughout the world emphasized rote learning, while US schools favored critical thinking. With standardized tests, we are increasingly moving towards rote learning, while funds for art and music are cut. Meanwhile, many countries are moving away from rote learning as they look for ways to grow a generation of innovators.
Last week the world mourned the passing of Steve Jobs, one of the greatest innovators of our times. In tributes, his creative genius is lauded, as is his vision, esthetic sense, and endless thinking outside the box. He made his fortune from a tech company, but I have yet to hear anyone praise his ability to write code. I’m sure he could, but his brilliance lay in his creativity.
Almost every young child paints and draws. Few will become artists, but the more we encourage our children to create, the more they will learn an important lesson – that unlike rote learning where each problem has only one right answer, in creative work every problem has infinite solutions. The bottom line: more than ever, we need to make sure our children are exposed to art, music, and other creative endeavors.