An imagination is a terrible thing to waste

Years ago, during a business meeting in my pre-cartooning days of hiring and firing people for a local pharmacy chain, one of my bosses flippantly said we should look to hire people with art degrees.

This is commentary from political blogger and cartoonist Rob Tornoe.

Years ago, during a business meeting in my pre-cartooning days of hiring and firing people for a local pharmacy chain, one of my bosses flippantly said we should look to hire people with art degrees.

The reason? Artists are ultimately problem solvers who sit down at a desk with some tools and a blank piece of paper and figure out the best solution.

That made a lot of sense to me. Knowledge requires repetitious learning of concepts already known, but imagination requires the creation of something from nothing, a skill that transfers to every aspect of adult life and work.

Advocates of art education sometimes have a tough time justifying why it is so important. Up against budget crunches, time constraints and parents who simply don’t value the importance of the arts, art education all to often get pushed aside in school in favor of more test-driven subjects such as math and science.

A recent report by the New Jersey Arts Education Census Project shows both sides of the problem. On the one hand, nearly every public school in the state has required courses in visual arts and music. However, per-pupil spending and student participation in these courses has declined dramatically, as have the number of full-time elementary arts and music teachers.

Everything in school these days seems to be based on tests. Schools get money because of test scores, students get scholarships because of test scores, etc. What students need is time to create, to nudge their young minds to embrace their imagination and harness their creativity.

In today’s world of smart phones, Facebook and video games, it’s vital that we expose our kids to art, music, dance and chorus, and not let them drown in the tidal wave of information and convenience they’re currently besieged with.

Albert Einstein famously said, “imagination is more important than knowledge.” Strong arts education helps students develop the skills necessary to persistently and adaptively work through problems.

When we ask students to think like artists, what we’re really doing is giving them 21st-century problem solving skills that encourage them to approach situations with creativity and analytic thought instead of just a recitation of facts. 

After all, not every problem can be solved by coloring within the lines.

 

Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.

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