Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What Does Sputnik have to do with Arts Funding?

A lot, I think.

When Sputnik happened, and the Cold War began, we became afraid of Earth-destroying technology. Technology we had never contemplated before.

With this fear came a need to control and dominate. Everything else took a back seat.

We needed Star Wars, and nuclear scientists. We needed warheads. We had to keep the annihilation of our way of life, or just Earth in general, at bay.

Now, vaporizing ourselves is bad. And it kind of prevents other things from happening in a very thorough way.

But, what are we trying to avoid vaporizing? Isn't that our humanity, our culture? Our society? Our lives?

Somewhere along the way, we decided that the "hard" sciences were the salvation of the world, and that other artsy "fuzzy" stuff was just a "nice-to-have."

And now here we sit, with that attitude still festering in our education system.

The arts get cut first in our schools because they are not "hard." They don't play into our now-obsolete notion of what keeps our society safe, and prosperous.

If you examine where this attitude first came from, it's easier to understand it, to appreciate the very real fears that brought it into being, and also to move beyond it.

Today we need to learn how to think, more than ever. We need unique voices, unprecedented solutions, in a world that moves very very quickly and that is interconnected. And we need to draw out of ourselves ideas that we did not know were there. We need the arts.

Those who figure this out, will prosper.

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