The future of our nation depends on science, math, and technology
While watching MSNBC, I saw a commercial for education. The final line was “The future of our nation depends on science, math, and technology.” It’s great that there are commercials advocating education. Education, in general, IS the future. The problem with the final statement is that it’s limiting. Obviously, there’s no mention of the arts. What is the point of acquiring wealth, or becoming good in science, math, and technology? John Adams (the 2nd president, not the composer) once wrote, “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.” If you trust John Adams’ judgment, then the U.S. is setting its goals far too low. How long do science, math, and technology have to be studied before “painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain” are priorities? This is not simply polemical. We’re creating a population that is extremely unhappy, yet exceedingly self-centered. This does affect the quality of life of our society tremendously. It wastes incredible amounts of money. Look at our medical system. One problem the AMA often brings up in regards to the high medical costs in America is malpractice. They say insurance rates are so high because Americans are extraordinarily litigious. Could it possibly be that there are some bad doctors out there? I’m not including bad doctors who are simply not terribly good at what they do, but bad doctors out of lack of commitment to their profession. So, why would anyone go through all of the education and training it takes to become a medical doctor if they really didn’t want to be one? Pressure! Pressure from family (Meet my son, the doctor!). Pressure from teachers (so, how do you plan to make a living as a composer?). Maybe even pressure from T.V. commercials (see above). So, why should anyone care if a poor kid goes into the wrong profession? Do you really want to get open-heart surgery from a doctor who wanted to be a poet, but his parents said, “Quit dreaming!” I don’t. I’d like any doctor I deal with to be concentrating on his job, not thinking about his next painting. A doctor who’s not focused is going to make mistakes. A medical doctor’s mistakes are called malpractice. A doctor doesn’t pay for malpractice lawsuits out of his own pocket. He/she has malpractice insurance. Of course, the cost for the insurance is passed along to the patient; another reason medical costs skyrocketed in this country since the 50’s. Can any good science, mathematics, or technology come from someone whose heart isn’t in it? We pay, as a society, in more than one way for a lack of interest in your job.
What are our priorities? Look at the banking system. We’ve had in the past ten years a mad acquisition of wealth by people who produce nothing. If science, math, and technology weren’t the only fields advocated in a T.V. commercial, maybe our children would grow up cherishing true value over a fantasy. A number in a bank account is not an end in itself. Even the bankers know that. That’s why they commission artworks and donate money for museums and performance spaces. I don’t know if people see the daydream in wealth acquisition anymore. The arts are supported by fewer and fewer wealthy people. Yes, the rich and wealthy corporations do give, but really most now do it for advertising reasons or even the tax-break. They make much more money from building CitiField than commissioning any artist. Even though Andrew Carnegie was in many ways a shit, he did build Carnegie Hall. He did give back to society. Do corporations? Bill Gates gives back. He’s an exception. Most big business today is in the Enron, or even Bernie Madoff mode. What does the banking system and greed have to do with a T.V. commercial advocating science, math, and technology? Aren’t science, math, and technology perfectly legitimate, respectable, and fulfilling professions? Of course they are, but they’re not the only ones. In many ways (if you believe John Adams), they’re not even the most rewarding in terms of societal contribution. What a child hears from his/her parents and from society is what that child will cherish and think is important. Of course, we need scientists, mathematicians, and people working in technology, but we also need musicians, composers, painters, poets, playwrights, choreographers, etc. But, if that child is told in many different situations from many different people that science, math, and technology are valid careers and never hears the same about the arts, or is even told to quit dreaming when they make sounds about wanting to be an artist, then what do we have as a society? We’ll have a society of technocrats, bankers, and bureaucrats.
Many people in America blame our educational system for America’s recent downturn. FUND education AND fund it fully, BUT get rid of the top-heavy bureaucracy. Look at the California State University. The chancellor’s office is equivalent in expenditure to a small CSU campus. Is this needed? What does the chancellor’s office produce? It’s certainly not education. The administration in many universities and colleges in the U.S. has more clout than the faculty. An administrator is NOT an educator. They are only there to facilitate the education of the students by the faculty. It’s perfectly fine to blame universities and colleges for wasting money, but it is not the faculty doing the wasting. Many times when an administrator is hired, they get retreat rights. This means that if they decide to quit being an administrator, they can join a faculty. The problem is many of them have no actual field of expertise, or their expertise has not been practiced in so long, they aren’t even actually in that field anymore. However, now they’ll teach it. Oh, wait a minute. Everyone knows they cannot really teach, so they’ll just get the salary without teaching. In the meantime, they’ve taken another job somewhere else and are receiving that salary too. Not believable. Look at the CSU system. This has happened at least five times that I know of, probably more. In the meantime, students are denied access to classes because there simply aren’t enough sections. They’re not being offered, due to budget cuts. On top of that, faculty in California have received a 10% furlough this past year. I read daily, even in a somewhat sane newspaper like the New York Times, that teachers are the problem. It’s easy to blame them, instead of looking at what they are given to do the job and the amount of respect (shown through salary in comparison with other professions) they get.
The problems with education in America today are twofold. The first is that our priorities are screwed up. No one should be forced to go into a field they do not love. You get an unhappy, wasteful society looking for anything to make their lives meaningful. The second problem is the top-heavy administration that runs our campuses. Faculty that move into administration tend to work out. People hired simply to be administrators are generally disasters in the university, people trying to appear to be useful in order to keep their jobs. That is the nature of bureaucracy. Pass the buck, and do whatever it takes to keep your job.
Neither problem allows for the view that any of the arts are genuine, legitimate vocations. The arts are cute, but how are you going to make a living? Trust me, I’ve seen this even in universities.
America’s problem is that we don’t appreciate our own population. Everyone flourishes when we cherish the dreams and aspirations of the whole populace, not just those dreams that will make the most money. Any country throughout history that didn’t view the arts as their highest forms of expression and greatest professions wound up with a militaristic, totalitarian political system. In other words, we’ll lose our soul!