Are We Heading Toward Disaster?
Here we are in 1999 in a world that is booming with technological advances. One would have to ask, “How did we come so far in such a short amount of time?” It seems as though it was only yesterday that we were traveling by horse and buggy. Now we travel by bullet trains, airplanes, and rockets. Seeing the arts and humanities in everything we did years ago was much easier, because technology didn’t seem to advance at the rapid pace it does today. Is that why so many people fail to realize the importance of it as we soar into the millennium? I believe that if one dives deep enough into anything created today, they would be bound to find traces of the past. Arts and Humanities are more than just a painting, monument, or song. Every bit of art from today and the past symbolizes something. It is symbolic of an era, time period, or group of people. Here in America where the land is so culturally diverse it is especially important. We would suffer most greatly if our education system shifted completely away from the arts and focused only on advancing technology. In order to define our present world, we must reflect upon the past.
What is culture? It can be defined as the beliefs, behavior, language, and entire way of life of a particular time or group of people. Culture includes customs, ceremonies, and works of art, inventions, technology, and traditions. The term also may have a more specific aesthetic definition and can describe the intellectual and artistic achievements of a society. Based upon that definition, culture can be found in just about everything we see and do. If that were the case, then wouldn’t we benefit from studying past and present cultures? There have been a great many men who have fought for a more liberal and culturally rich education to be given to the children of this country. Mortimer Adler wrote on liberal studies forty years ago. In his book Reforming Education, he says that education is simply a means to achieve an end. And”?the end of liberal education?lies in the use we make of our leisure, in the activities with which we occupy our leisure time.” So the purpose of liberal education is not to learn how to earn a living, but to learn how to live and enjoy life when not working. That is why the government should never cut funding of museums, art exhibits, and cultural event centers. People who are wealthy tend to be more exposed to the arts which makes them well rounded individuals with a good chance of succeeding at being happy and successful in life. Don’t we all deserve that chance though? Horace Mann once stated, “The scientific or literally well-being of a community is to be estimated not so much by possessing a few men of great knowledge, as its having many of competent knowledge.
In schools today, we have children coming out of high school that can not read. Those that can read haven’t read a small fraction of the great authors from this century or any other century. I could probably say the same thing regarding our college graduates too. The thing that makes it so sad is that we had many people fighting for reform so that our country wouldn’t get to the point it is at now and currently heading. Robert Maynard Hutchins encouraged liberal education at earlier ages and measured achievement by comprehensive examination, rather than by classroom time served. He introduced the study of the Great Books. At the same time, Hutchins argued about the purposes of higher education, deploring undue emphasis on nonacademic pursuits and criticizing the tendency toward specialization and vocationalism. However after his departure, The University of Chicago where he was chancellor abandoned most of his reforms and returned to the educational practices of other major American universities.
H.W. and Anthony Janson authors of the book History of Art said, “The story of art becomes an adventure, a quest for the forms and techniques that have been devised to satisfy the ageless human drive for self-expression. In an era when we all have more resources to help satisfy the drive for self-expression, we are to busy trying to satisfy our need to acquire the most stuff! Wouldn’t it be healthier for our society to have people around that are comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings about themselves and their background and heritage?
I believe the people in government today who would argue against funding programs in the field of arts, have not been well educated themselves. They are the same people who look at art in a museum and ask the question, “Why is this art?” Numerous books have been written and courses offered to answer that very question. One would have to understand that art is a way of expressing yourself. All of a persons thoughts and feelings could be brilliantly painted upon a canvas. Leonardo DiVinci’s perspective and realism are most outstanding, and his view of the natural world leaves the observer feeling transported to another time and another place. Throughout his paintings one can truly see how obsessed he was with the natural elements and how human figures fit in with them. DiVinci recorded everything he observed with his sketches. He combined his intellect and observation with his artistic skill. It has even been said that his most famous portrait The Mona Lisa, could possibly be a picture of himself. Timeless great artist such as Leonardo DiVinci, Michaelangelo, and Raphael will be remembered long after New York’s skyscrapers tumble into the sea.
Art has the ability to stand the test of time, so why is it dwindling from our education system’s curriculum? If I were to buy a computer today, It would be outdated by tomorrow. But that is where all of our educational concentration is focused, computers and technology. Arts and Humanities are guaranteed to increase in value over time. So as a nation we need to pull together and make an investment in our future by demanding that our schools start teaching as much of the music, arts, and cultures as it does computers, technology, and business.
I feel in order to make changes about this issue in the country, the people of America and any other country that wants to avoid disaster in the future, we have to demand that the mug-wumps in office stop straddling the political fence. They need to be for the preservation of our countries rich heritage and culture as well as the advancement of our sciences. I would like to close with a quote from the great German philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey. “The study of the human sciences involves the interaction of personal experience; the reflective understanding of experience; and an expression of the spirit in gesture, words, and art.” Dilthey argued, “All learning must be seen in the light of history; without this perspective, knowledge and understanding can be only partial.”