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Business and Education Executives Just Don't See Eye to Eye

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Recent reports by Gallup and the Lumina Foundation, said that "A significant perception gap (exists) between business and academic institution leaders when it comes to assessing the workforce preparedness of today's college graduates."

They made this key finding:

96 percent of percent of college and university chief academic officers said they are extremely or somewhat confident in their institution's ability to prepare students for success in the workforce (although) just 11 percent of business leaders strongly agree today's college graduates have the skills and competencies that their business needs.

As early as 2008, The Conference Board, a major international business research organization, issued a report called "Ready to Innovate," and asked "Are Educators and Executives Aligned on the Creative Readiness of the U.S. Workforce?"

The report was the first time that the vital link to a creative and innovative economy was made clear, and the road to America's success and survival was spelled out for all to see -- particularly in the business community. Yet, they too were concerned about alignment.

Things, it seems, have not gotten any better.

Yes, we know or instinctively believe that the arts and art education, including arts integration, is the answer to development of a truly interdisciplinary curriculum.

In 2000, the Arts Education Partnership, together with the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, published a groundbreaking report called "Champions of Change." According to the report, research shows that learners can reach higher levels of achievement through their engagement with the arts. In addition, learning in and through the arts can help level the playing field for disadvantaged youth.

"Champions of Change" also reported that sustained involvement in music and theater are highly correlated with success in mathematics and reading and that "the arts provide young people with authentic learning experiences that engage their minds, hearts and bodies."

Two years later, a unique consortium of arts organizations embraced Authentic Connections: Interdisciplinary Work in the Arts to enable students to "identify and apply authentic connections, promote learning by providing students with opportunities between disciplines and/or to understand, solve problems and make meaningful connections within the arts across disciplines on essential concepts that transcend individual disciplines."

The trouble with these very thoughtful studies some researchers say, is these studies mostly rely on anecdotal evidence, and the business community and the doubting public wants more certainty.

How can we move the needle? How can we close the gap? How much more must be done to make business better understand that art leads to creativity which leads to innovation which is what everybody acknowledges we must have to move our economy forward.

What is the reason that art based training, and arts integration still has its share of doubters? What is the reason that educators have not progressed as much as they should have, that the arts may be still seen as a frill?

Maybe they must simply do better to show that art based training is not only nice but necessary, find other ways, find different strategies or perhaps, change the language used when they talk about the vital role of the arts.

Or maybe more hard evidence is needed.

The stakes are too high not to find answers to these questions.