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02005-04-12 | Uncategorized | 12 comments

Science versus Art in America. That is probably the worst ratio in the Western world – if you believe, like I do, that Art is important in building culture.
(Via Protein Feed)

In science there is usually one solution, one correct way to do something. In the arts there is not one correct way to express oneself. You can’t say what somebody painted or sang is wrong… it may be more or less successful at conveying an emotion, and you may either love it or dislike it, but it can’t be wrong. I find that to be a very important lesson for children to learn and for adults to hold dear.

My way or the highway or I am right and you are wrong – that is a very misleading approach to life. It seems to me that at present people do not allow differing opinions. That is obvious regarding politics, but also true for every social or cultural issue, especially moral and ethical questions – from abortions to nuclear power, from aiding suicide to stemcell research and genetically engineered food. We have no discussions, only screaming matches.

There will always be as many points of view as there are people. Two people may agree on this or that issue, but nobody will agree on every single point. If your friend/spouse/partner always agrees with you, s/he might just be afraid to voice their opinion…

If we are truthful, opinions are liquid – not solid, mutable and constantly changing. We are not today who we were yesterday – and our opinions should reflect that instead of holding onto a position just because we have had it for so long.

It is not just that the constant flow of new information and discoveries make it important for us to be flexible and willing to adjust our own opinions – it is also important to allow other people, spouses, friends and strangers to have differing opinions. What seems right today may be wrong tomorrow.

And that is why I think an art education in school is so important.


  1. Adam Solomon

    Well, is there really anything wrong with such high spending on science? Art builds culture, but similarly does science. And though art may have led to much more cultural progress than science has–that I won’t doubt–science has led to a similarly higher amount of more “worldly” progress, for lack of a better word (I want to say “materialistic”, but that word has a negative stigma which need not be attached to most scientific progress).

    A couple of things have to be taken into account here. This is a representation not of the values that American people as a whole place on science vs. art, but rather what the government allotts to each. Promotion of culture, although a noble and necessary aim, is a very subjective one, too, and my interpretation of what constitutes necessary federal endowment for the arts will differ vastly from your interpretation, which in turn will differ vastly from Bob Jones’s. Science, meanwhile, is 100% objective. There is a bit of debate as to how much government money should be allotted to what scientific endeavors (see the battle to save HST [Hubble Space Telescope], for example. I and the astronomers I work with are all one a completely different side of the fence than, say, a biologist might be, or a regular citizen who sees no value in the telescope), but for the most part, we have a pretty good idea of what endeavors need what money. And quite a bit of that is directed at medical endeavors that will save lives, one of the absolute first priorities of government. It has to be taken into consideration that the government has the goal to look out for all of its citizens, not just a select few, and you find that in the objective world of science, there is simply much more to satisfy everybody than in the Arts, where, their immense importance aside, it will take a lot of money to make a majority of the populace happy.

    Note also the business factor of art. We would live in a great world indeed if art and money were not mixed, if you could listen to great music without straining your wallet while the artist somehow made a comfortable living, but this is, of course, not the reality. Art is, in many ways, a business. Art for the sake of art ends up profiting immensely more than science for the sake of science. Anyone will pay reasonably for a good piece of art; only certain sciences, such as pharmaceuticals and practical engineering, are similarly suited to profit, and provide for the livings of those who perform it. And that’s where much of the money goes–scientists, for the most part, make their livings solely from government grants. I’ll publish a paper in one of the world’s most prestigious journals for observational astronomy in June or July, and I’d expect very few people to be knocking at my door asking to buy copies. You’ll release your holiday album in December and make enough to support you and your family, no government help needed. Now, in this particular situation, I’d attribute that to the fact that your albums are the product of immensely more talent and hard work than my paper will be (hehe :) ), but in most any similar situation, the same principle applies. Science is less of a business–it needs the government funding.

    There is also, of course, the bias that both of us have. You’re an artist, and I consider myself a scientist (I’m involved in university research, at least, does that count? :) ). The monetary difference shown there is vast, no doubt (45 times, to be exact), and should be bridged a little, but a reasonably sizeable difference, I think, between government assistance to science and art is quite alright, and should in no way be interpreted as an indicator of the ratio of the values which American people place on the two. Just my two cents ;)

    Did I just say anything really stupid that might make me come off in the wrong light? I do that sometimes…haha

  2. Panj

    …good points Adam, I had not ever looked at it like that…but I find it terribly sad that in our area…there is no such thing as art or music in schools anymore. I have a suspicion that we as a society will pay for this lack.

  3. Adam Solomon

    Well, now there’s a big difference between what Ottmar linked to and what you’re talking about–that’s just not right. We need the arts in the school system.

  4. Just Me

    I started this at least a half dozen times & erased what I had. This topic deserves an essay…but here goes anyways.
    There’s a huge difference between the importance of the arts and government funding of the arts. I agree with everything Ottmar said about the importance of the arts and I don’t think that Adam would disagree but I also agree with Adam. I am Canadian, not American….but the issues remain the same: the theory of a governmental body is to elect people that you trust & allow them to use funds you provide them (taxes) for the betterment of the society as a whole. (The jury is still out on whether or not our current governments really do that…but that is a whole other topic!) Society as a whole has more need for services that would be linked to the sciences than to the arts. To my way of thinking government spending for health care, environmental issues, etc. are much more important than spending money on art programs. That is not to say that the arts are not important in the development of every human being but it isn’t as essential as medical care, safe food. Along the same lines as Adam’s comments, look at the wealthiest people in North America: many, many of them are entertainers and sports figures. The public pays crazy amounts of money to be entertained; they pay for their own arts. And yes, I know, there are many, many talented artists out there who have not had financial success and who could have benefited from governmental support. There are however also many private benefactors who help to keep the arts alive in our communities.

    The world would be a very, very boring and unfulfilling place without the arts. My life would not be as full if I could not listen to your music but I don’t feel it’s up to the government to provide me with those pleasures.

  5. Carol

    Adam, I have read and reread your comment so filled with wisdom. The first look at bare facts is not always the true picture, and you have, in my opinion, set down so much of the truth of it. We can be proud of what you’ve said . Government funding always, because of its nature, demands results be qualified, quantified with strict adherance to the regulations set down by lawmakers. Much better for the exact sciences than for the creative arts. We’ve all seen stifling when Washington is the responsible party.
    Art needs so much more than funding. It needs acceptance of the vital role it has in life and society. It needs the opportunity and freedoom to create, to stop treating it as a frivilous extra and appreciate it as a worthy companion of Science to make life beautiful for everyone.

  6. Carol

    and oh, how I agree with what Ottmar has to say!…at least right now : )

  7. Just Me

    Too true, Carol. I especially agree with Ottmar when he says: “If we are truthful, opinions are liquid – not solid, mutable and constantly changing. We are not today who we were yesterday – and our opinions should reflect that instead of holding onto a position just because we have had it for so long.” If our opinions were not liquid then we could not be influenced by the wisdom and insight of those around us. Here I am, an open mind: please enlighten me with your opinion and your wisdom. Let me see your side, let me digest your theories and allow me to take what I need from them and make them into my thoughts and opinions. I am not the same person I was this time yesterday…I have more knowledge, more experiences and I have known you just a little bit longer….

  8. Just Me

    But aren’t we now on a completely different topic?

  9. Adam Solomon

    Thanks so much for the kind words, Carol :) Glad I was making my point well, apparently! Just Me summed my basic message up pretty well, I think. Ottmar’s edit, by the way, is right on the mark. I think I’m extremely lucky to have always gone to schools with substantial art programs, but what Panj and other Fanmencos, I believe including Matt, have with little to no arts in the schools, that’s just wrong, I think we can all agree.

  10. Carol

    All schools should provide real art instruction…but alas they don’t.So often what’s called art is worse than none.I had absolutely no art in school until college. I was born into a family who relished all kinds of creative art and so I was home-schooled. My kids too. I remember Jeff’s kindergarten teacher saying she was afraid he would never be an artist like his mom because he couldn’t stay in the lines. I explained that was important to help his eye-hand coordination and we would have art at home.
    But as a teacher I sure worked it in whenever I could and was an art teacher for Jr. Sr. High on a reservation.

  11. Just Me

    Absolutely! Arts education is as important to a child’s development as any academics. I guess I am fortunate to live in a community where arts are very prevelant and accessible. Music, in particular, is very important in all the schools in my area and our schools are well known for their music programs. Like many people I take this for granted and make assumptions that this is true for all communities.

  12. Carol

    We have wonderful music in our school now,(I sure didn’t) and to see the poise and self-confidence alone is enough reason the patrons will not let it go. They threatened to cut back and the community took up collections. Visual Arts is another thing entirely. Very difficult to see concrete results fast enough for the general public.


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