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The Milton Measure

Letter to the Editors from Gordon Chase

by on Friday, October 28th, 2011
A little investigation might have kept the Measure’s recent castigation of requiring art from being so uninformed. Why did you choose this topic? What did you hope to accomplish? This letter is directed to the “narrowly focused students” that the writer identifies as ” sacrificing a great deal of time towards a course which will be of little benefit to them.”  (Thank you to Mykala Sandler for  her contrasting views).
It is wonderful that free speech is alive and debatable in United States as demonstrated by the Citizens United decision at the Supreme Court and the recent and ongoing “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations.  We still make the exception that no one may “yell fire in a movie theater.” I must say that the Measure’s gratuitous attack on art sounded like “fire” to me. For me personally, art is a celebration of life akin to religion.  As a teacher, art is a necessity that embraces visual literacy, creative thinking, and effective communication. It provides a basis for the design of just about everything and is a vital source of innovation. Given the homogeneity and rigid controls imposed by many other cultures, it is short-sighted not to value how self-expression  (artistic and otherwise) makes Americans the individuals that we are. I will defend the right to be short-sighted even though a diatribe against art is disappointing at a school that instituted one of the first art requirements in the country. (Maybe someone could investigate that?)
So I take strong issue with the writer’s label of art as a “hobby …not integral to a student’s future.”  Why do I feel that Michaelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci ( a painter yes but also a brilliant inventor) had more than just a hobby?  I believe our writer has missed the truth on several counts – the value of beauty and truth as expressed through art, the value of creative thinking to solving problems in all realms – including math and science for example, and the value of design to organizing our society.  Recent books support the need for innovation – Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World, Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat,and Crowded, and Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind.  In my view the study of “art” provides essential practice in creating ideas, products, and systems as much as it serves to shape our identities – both individual and collective.  It serves to persuade us that diversity is not only beautiful but life-affirming in a contemporary world so challenged by the assumptions that we make so quickly and the destructive consequences that result.
If art is just a “hobby, ” so is life itself. I am in favor of the study of both.   As Albert Einstein once said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

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Posted by on Oct 28 2011. Filed under More Opinion, Opinion, Recent Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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