Food, sunshine and love

There’s a movement today that argues the arts should occupy an equal place with math and science in school curricula. But in work we did on behalf of the Creative Coalition, we came away with a radically different perspective.

We concluded that enthusiasm for the STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering, and math — runs so high on the education scene not just because those subjects lead to high-profile jobs, but because student performance in STEM is easily measured in objective terms. If that’s the scorecard, art doesn’t stand a chance.

But what can be objectively shown is that humans need art to thrive, in the same way they need food, sunshine and love. Therefore, schools must absolutely fight for art’s place within their walls — just not in the same way they aim to raise SAT scores.

“In today’s schools, no curricular subject (even STEM) claims to increase quality of life metrics — there isn’t even a place to declare victory if they do,” our report read. “But social programs do, from school breakfast programs to mandatory vaccination plans. These programs ultimately succeeded when the benefits they provided were viewed as every child’s right — researchers track what happens when kids don’t get a measles shot or a hot breakfast. We should start talking about art’s impact with the same urgency.”

We were enlisted for this work by Tim Daly, president of the Creative Coalition. It is one of several projects in which we’ve untangled the social norms related to art, including those in hospitals and corporations.