A Head of Steam: The Case for Teaching Arts in the Digital Age

By Rothkopf, David | Foreign Policy, May-June 2016 | Go to article overview

A Head of Steam: The Case for Teaching Arts in the Digital Age


Rothkopf, David, Foreign Policy


Regular readers of this column may recall that my father was a scientist at Bell Telephone Laboratories. Beginning his work in the 1950s, when computers were the size of classrooms and programming was something that was done by executives at one of the television or radio networks, he was a pioneer in the study of how computers could be used in education. By the late 1970s and early '80s--just before Bell Labs was rocked by the court ruling that broke up its parent company, AT&T, ultimately ending its reign as the world's foremost corporate research facility--the world viewed computing as the future. Regularly, politicians and even more credible prognosticators insisted that in order to compete and meet the needs of tomorrow's information technology field, America had to raise a generation with extraordinary math and science skills.

This argument drove my father, who had a tendency toward irascibility to begin with, to distraction. At home, he railed--as he had at conferences--that while math and science skills would be important in this new age, it was fundamentally wrong to think that we would actually need more students in the future who had them: Ever-more powerful computers, he argued, would actually do much of the work that had required scientific, mathematical, and technical skills in people. If anything, we might need fewer people who could crunch a number or design a program, he said. (To be clear, he certainly acknowledged that some math and science skills would be needed; and, as a scientist, he valued those talents above all others, notes his son, the English major.)

But to this very moment, his point-right though I believe it to be--is not fully appreciated.

Today, there remains good reason to cultivate these skills, particularly in schools where an increasing number of students seem to be less willing to challenge themselves and more inclined to take the path of least resistance to colleges and careers. (And that seems to be every path: A former Duke University professor, scrutinizing transcript records between 1940 and 2013 from more than 400 U.S. colleges, recently found that today's coddled students are three times more likely to be awarded A's in course grades as those 70 years ago. The study also notes that this is not because students are getting smarter: Rather, it is because contemporary society seemingly wants them to feel good about themselves. A Washington Post op-ed likened this phenomenon to giving out trophies to competitors "just for showing up" to play.)

Yet since my father's days at Bell, the rationale for hoarding prospective STEM students into a classroom hasn't changed: Computers are still driving tomorrow's development. Yes, the world is wired together, which has created more economic opportunity and activity via the Internet. And, yes, powerful computers and sensors--not to mention access to data and the ability to analyze it--have empowered scientific breakthroughs. But is pushing STEM, and STEM alone, still the right approach? The answer is yes and no: That is, what we are going to need is a modern reality that requires STEAM power--adding arts to the mix--in order to thrive in the new environment.

Often the argument in favor of arts education centers on the idea that it helps promote creativity. While this is no doubt true, the case seems to suggest that science and math education does not do the same-which is ridiculous. Some of the greatest examples of creativity in human history have come from scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and others who have reimagined, reinterpreted, and remade our world.

We need to focus on arts education for different, profoundly fundamental, reasons: We need the arts in order to be human. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

A Head of Steam: The Case for Teaching Arts in the Digital Age
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.