Two of the most-positive vehicles to promote the arts in schools have been based on comparing sports and arts. The Disney television movie, High School Musical (and the enterprise that resulted in TV, film, music and events), followed by Fox's hit series, Glee, both unite the super cool athletes and the arts geeks, bringing credibility, success, love and fame and fortune to the students who sing and dance better than they throw or punt.
What sports and the arts have in common is building that part of an individual that has nothing to do with grades, SAT scores or traditional curricula, but has to do with resilience, tenacity and motivation. Students gain the willingness to keep going... and forging ahead in the face of adversity... and obstacles.
These are critical life lessons -- impossible to measure for anyone who is into quantifying a checklist of what someone brings to our society. But without them, society does not grow. There have to be risk taking entrepreneurs who are innovators. There always have to be executives who are willing to try something new, speak out and say something that may be rejected, and not be afraid to do it. These are different kinds of talents. These talents are indispensable to our society, not just grades... For anyone to build and to grow, you need more than academic skills... you need inner core beliefs... and passion.
I cannot sit in judgment on what should be prioritized and what gets cut, whether it be the arts, sports or anything else.
I don't believe that sports are a great American asset, and certainly not our greatest asset. Automobiles, clearly, are no longer our great American export. We lost our edge in electronic devices, like television sets and radios, to Asia long ago. The pharmaceutical industry is currently shifting in terms of generic drugs, protection of intellectual property rights and the growth of India and other countries embracing the field.
So, after aircraft and armaments, what appears to be the greatest sought after goods and influence of the United States and the other largest U.S. export for money paid back into the United States by the rest of the world, is not our manufactured goods. It is our television shows, our motion pictures, our music, our theatre, viz.: American culture. Yes, folks, just check it out... the impact globally of The Simpsons, Yogi Bear, Seinfield, it goes on and on... and add to it our music... rock & roll, R&B, country and other formats Hip Hop, Rap.... Add in the gargantuan box office revenues of our films and DVD sales and broadcast rights and the downloading... Billions and billions of dollars.
Billions of dollars -- take note those of you in Congress who still don't get it!
If you want to measure the arts as an economic force versus sports as an economic force, sports have a huge impact (for sure) in this country. But on a global basis, it is not the "U.S." income-producing behemoth in the same way our culture and our arts are. The world devours and adopts all American source-created entertainment product...maybe it's weird to you, but it sure has helped balance of trade... (I wonder if our congressmen notice that?)
I am not characterizing the world's taste as a good thing or bad. That is the world we live in. Nor do I want to generalize about athletes or kids who go out for the arts or students who reclusively fiddle in their dormitory room playing at their computers because those kids turn out to be Sergey Brin, Bill Gates and Larry Page! And kids who are perceived as not "cool" (meaning successful and rich at hedge funds, or awkward and socially inept and therefore uncool) were thought of as student geeks! Now they are in the FORBES top billionaire list! They make our world drive forward.
What have these ex-geeks done for our economy? How do you quantify the benefit, the risk-reward, the return? They have vision... they see beyond what is... and what could be (very JFK of them).
We don't know what the actual stimulus is that will trigger this specialness in a human being until it happens.
So it's not fair to generalize that athletes-jocks are troglodytes... or that people with inventive ideas who don't have great social skills, or care about their attire and who scratch ideas on pads or just stare out a window in a classroom, are sure-fire losers.
Some athletes do become our country's leaders and our children's role models (and some do not).
Some "uncool geeks" may amount to nothing but unfulfilled dreamers and others will change our world forever in a remarkable way. (Hello... Albert Einstein!)
Encourage the dreamers... protect intellectual property... even if it's invisible... nurture your 'special' kid...you never know!