The Creation of a Subculture: The Decline of the Arts in a Society Dominated by Technology, Science, and Economics

By Mains, Ronda M. | Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

The Creation of a Subculture: The Decline of the Arts in a Society Dominated by Technology, Science, and Economics


Mains, Ronda M., Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table


Abstract

The concept of two cultures recognized by Charles Percy Snow (1) may have implications beyond a lack of understanding and respect between two conflicting worlds of intellectuals. This widening chasm in the United States affects the education of our public school students. Technology and economics, intelligence testing, the No Child Left Behind Act, college entrance requirements, national standardized testing are some of the contributors to an educational value system skewed toward reading, math, and science. If Howard Gardner is correct in his theory of multiple intelligences then the public school education one-size-fits-all system may be detrimental to the success and self-confidence of children whose inherent intelligence is not in linguistics, mathematical reasoning, or science.

This paper examines some of the societal factors put on public school education such as political rhetoric, the disparity in grant funding between sciences and the arts, the pressures of curricula created by college entrance requirements, the role of technology in the economy, and the media's preferential interest in success in math and science. There are observations of the decline of interest in the arts in society as well as in public schools and comments about the implications of an artistic subculture.

Introduction

The concept of two cultures recognized by Charles Percy Snow (1959) 1 may have implications beyond a lack of understanding and respect between two conflicting worlds of intellectuals. This widening chasm in the United States affects the education of our public school students. Technology and economics, intelligence testing, the No Child Left Behind Act, college entrance requirements, national standardized testing are some of the contributors to an educational value system skewed toward reading, math, and science. Further, societal factors such as popular culture, political rhetoric, and the media's preferential attention to success in math and science have affected the nucleus of our public schools' curricula.

Schools are reflections of the society in which they exist and American public schools and institutions of higher learning are no exception. Curricula are defined by the societal customs, traditions, judgments, laws, principles, manners, and honored standards in social, vocational and a vocational roles. (2) What is important in a society will become a topic covered in its public schools; correspondingly only those subjects covered in public schools will likely endure in the wider culture.

The Power of Societal Values

Culture in the United States seems characterized by fast food, popular music, microchip technology, shopping malls, multimedia advertising, and theme parks. As Americans, we expect to drive a car, we expect our homes to be heated in the winter and cooled in the summer, we expect to have a television and a computer and we expect to have plenty of food to eat. Many Americans assume they can afford much more than they need to live. Even when the economy struggles, there is still an emphasis on consumerism. In so many ways, the bottom line defines our culture and knows no boundaries between the arts and sciences.

Big corporations now dominate what was traditionally intellectual property. Citizens with educated tastes do not buy enough scholarly literature, art music, or other academic media to make the bottom line profitable. While the number of CD's of popular music is increasing, the number of classical music CD's are dwindling. When business decisions are motivated entirely by the bottom line, a widespread decline of intellectual capacity is the inevitable consequence. (3)

Perhaps more insidious than the bottom line dictating culture is the inclination in American society to be contemptuous of everything intellectual. Obvious examples of this dumbing down (4) trend are celebrated in television situation comedies and in movies like Forest Gump. …

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