The Bulletin

The Arts are Essential: Why Teaching Creativity is Not a Luxury

Friday, February 2013

This article by David J. Skorton, President of Cornell University, is reprinted with permission from Edutopia.com.


As president of a large research university that received 33,000 applications for 3,050 places in the fall freshman class, I'm often asked by parents of students in high school, middle school
—and even those in preschool—what their children should study in the K-12 years to increase their chances of admission to college. I dutifully affirm the conventional wisdom: Take the most challenging courses in core academic disciplines like English, languages, history, math, and science for the required number of years, participate in extracurricular activities, volunteer...

... Then I put in a plea for taking time to explore the humanities and arts in all their varied dimensions —visual and performing, Western and non-Western, classical and avant-garde.


Far from being mere adornments to educational development, easy to dismiss as nonessential in tight economic times, these disciplines nurture our creative instincts.

Although they do not always lend themselves to the kinds of metrics used to demonstrate proficiency in reading and math, the arts and humanities play a vital role in the educational development of students. They keep and convey our cultural heritage while opening us up to other societies and civilizations around the globe. They help us explore what it means to be human, including both the ethical and aesthetic dimensions. If science and technology help us to answer questions of "what" and "how," the arts and humanities give us ways to confront the intangible, to contemplate the "why," to imagine, to create. If ever there were a time to nurture those skills in our young people, it is now, when our nation's future may depend on our creativity and our ability to understand and appreciate the cultures around the world as much as on our proficiency in reading and math...

Read the rest of David J. Skorton's article at Edutopia.com.