5 Arguments for Arts Education

5-arguments-for-arts-educationArts education frequently comes under fire when so many of the best paying careers are based on business, science, math and computer-related fields, but many educators and thought leaders disagree. In a world of specialization, the arts can serve as a common cultural bridge among people with highly specialized businesses or careers.

Arts Education Broadens Understanding and Communications

An education in the various arts transcends job titles, industries and the sciences because anyone can benefit from a broader knowledge of the world and cultural benchmarks. Specifically, the following arguments support arts education:

1. Communications Skills Are Strengthened

Communications are important in every industry, and a wider knowledge of culture and the arts stands students in good stead when networking, communicating in social media, performing well in job interviews and writing résumés. Even the savviest techies can’t know everything in their fields and can become confused by professional jargon in other areas of specialization. Communications skills in reading, writing, interviewing and speaking help students in all professions advance. Arts educations focus on developing these communications skills.

2. Arts Teach About Qualitative Relationships

There can be no major advances in sciences without the skills to make good judgments about qualitative relationships. In arts disciplines, judgments are often more important than memorizing “correct” answers. Learning how to make judgment calls is essential for pursuing research, developing new qualitative disciplines and inventing new technology. According to Infed.org and educator Elliot W. Eisner, the Enlightenment that was inspired by scientist Galileo was as much a conceptual revolution as a shift to qualitative reasoning. Arts-inspired thinking is relevant to everything people do from teaching to altering the world’s environment.

3. Problem-Solving Skills Are Enhanced

The arts teach children at an early age how to solve problems and that many problems have more than a one solution. Children learn that multiple perspectives are valid and that small changes in language, attitudes and actions can generate big effects. Arts skills are essential for visualizing geometric shapes, developing creativity to think outside the cube and cone and inspiring even science majors to look at problems from different perspectives to find new solutions. John I. Williams Jr., President of Muhlenberg College, told Forbes.com that learning needs to be adaptive when solving problems is a critical skill and that liberal arts graduates are disproportionately high among world leaders.

4. Some People Aren’t Wired for Science

It’s obvious that some people aren’t hardwired for science, and some just aren’t cut out for certain aspects of the arts. Colleges have verbal, qualitative and writing sections, so two-thirds of students’ scores depend on skills and knowledge that come from arts education. The idea that majoring in humanities or artistic subjects dooms students to lives of underemployment is a myth because social workers, counselors, teachers, artists and writers will always be in demand.

Consider that computer technology, websites and the Internet generate an ongoing demand for arts-inspired content. There’s a bigger demand than ever for writers, designers, artists and photographers despite the fact that traditional print newspapers and magazines are tanking. Some of these computer-related jobs involve science, math, coding and software development, but the arts are well-represented. There is also a gender gap according to a U.S. Department of Commerce study that found only one out of seven engineers is a woman. Cutting arts programs would discriminate against women who aren’t “wired” for science.

5. Long-Term Salary Prospects Are About Equal Between STEM and Arts Grads

The biggest argument in favor of STEM or science, technology, engineering and math educations is that these fields pay higher starting salaries than liberal arts majors earn. While true to some extent, the salaries tend to equalize over time. An Association of American Colleges and Universities study found that liberal arts majors tend to catch up in earning power over the course of their careers. In addition to better long-term prospects, the study showed that unemployment for recent arts graduates was only 5.2 percent and dropped to 3.5 percent for people aged 40 to 51.

These five arguments are supported by studies or overwhelming anecdotal evidence, but they don’t take into account the many intangible benefits of learning more about art, music, poetry, writing, humanities and other liberal arts subjects.

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