07/09/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

It's Art's Time

As everyone knows, the corporate behemoths who for years drove this country's prosperity are foundering.

Credit for this has ranged from the brazen profiteering on the parts of CEO's and their upper echelon political associates, having let greed consume them like late stage cancer, to years of unregulated activity and a rapidly changing global business paradigm. And there are probably many more relevant reasons which can be elucidated by economists and philosophers with great pith and insight.

But whatever the explanations of the current economic crisis the reality that our educational system is also similarly melting down is often seen as a minor concern and, even less astute, as totally unrelated. With the drop-out rate increasing and schools and students becoming progressively less competitive with its international counterparts the failure may lie not just in the adaptation of the corporate approach toward, well, everything, but also because they are overlooking a crucial, neglected element, one which would re-establish balance, increase the prospects of recovery and ensure future stability:


Or, how the portion of the brain which delights and thrives in active imagining and creative expressions of the most basic human ideas, dreams and desires.

Officially marginalized in our schools and practically vestigial in the anatomy of our systems of education and business, art---its creation and enjoyment---is in need of rediscovery and reapplication within those systems. Without art as a functioning, practical and living concept, the ideas upon which our society has of late built itself are brittle and disposable and have the briefest of shelf-lives.

Art is the connective tissue between our brains, bodies and souls, giving character to blandness, hope to hollowness. Without art the overseers of the failed approach toward sustaining a national economy or a healthy, thriving workforce are themselves slaves to souless corporate conceptualizing which in theory is meant to supply humanity with the means to attain happiness but which in reality prevents that from ever happening.

Literally throwing money at the problem in the form of zillion dollar bailouts may have an initially resuscitating effect but is a band-aid at best. The permanent establishment and integration of arts in the earliest stages of a student's development is crucial. Actually, it's less a question of integration and more an imperative to allow a person's natural tendency to create and express that creation, giving them and it the chance to flourish, encouraged and unencumbered.

During our decades-long addiction to overwork and underpayment in the vain pursuit of champagne wishes and caviar dreams, art has been branded as a milksop conceit, one which elicits smirks and is deemed wholly unnecessary to the betterment of society by the macho tough guys who epitomize the Gordon Gecko "greed is good" credo. But history (along with myriad scientific studies) disproves that hypothesis. And right now, those macho tough guys are staring glassy-eyed at their computer screens, wondering where their hedge funds have gone and why their gadget saturated lives are on "low battery."

And it can also be said that every great leader has held a deep appreciation for the arts, intensely apparent in the quality of their leadership and in the devotion of their admirers. Most of our founding fathers were schooled in Shakespeare and had overall knowledge of classical arts, as well as in music. This supplemented and enriched their already impressive grasp on, shall we say, the more mundane disciplines required to run a small country.

For, without a full and rich appreciation, a nation, a business, a concept, a life is bereft of a leavening agent, a perspective which rounds out and more clearly defines the world which we inhabit for so brief a time and in which we would like to leave a trace of our existence, of our humanity.

Integration of art and arts programs into every level of schools and business would provide a progressive and experiential approach to the otherwise hollow pursuit of profit, the fruits of which this country---and the world---is suffering mightily from. Doing so would virtually ensure not only greater understanding but wider participation from a wider range of engaged citizens and thus---wait for it---greater profits.

That's right, corporate behemoths: you'll make more money!

It's the sensible thing, business-wise, to incorporate (ahem) an awareness of concepts once deemed negligible into the stale, broken paradigms of conducting commerce.

But to do that, you start at the grassroots---you start in the schools.

To ignore art as an essential component to happiness and productivity amounts to, oh say, being willfully ignorant about the environment or fearing other cultures or denying adequate health care or disregarding the wisdom of our elders or waging radical extremist jihads or allowing fringe fundamentalist religions to ride roughshod over common sense.

Oh wait. We know how that turns out.

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