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March 28, 2023

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Modern Polymaths:Why having an arts education leads to success

The 21st century is a time of rapid change in almost every area of society, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed by this at times when it seems there is an expectation to adapt to a constantly shifting global environment.

Education is no exception to this “change narrative” and this can lead to questions about the value of what has been traditionally seen as central and important in a young person’s education. Questions such as “what do employers see as essential for young people entering the workforce?” and “what subjects are the most important for college entrance?” are worth considering.

In today’s world, there is a growing emphasis on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in education. This trend has led to some questioning the value of arts education, but the truth is that an education in the arts is more important than ever in the 21st century. So what are employers looking for in the 21st-century workforce and how is an arts education fundamentally important in developing these skills?

One of the key benefits of an arts education is the development of creativity. In a world where innovation is highly valued, creativity is an essential skill. The arts encourage students to think outside the box and find unique or new approaches to problems. Similarly, the ability to analyze information, evaluate arguments and make informed decisions is crucial in today’s world. Arts education can also help students develop their critical thinking skills by exposing them to different perspectives and ways of thinking.

Harvard University professor Tony Wagner noted that “The ability to think creatively and the ability to think critically are two sides of the same coin. And the arts help to develop both.”

Another benefit of arts education is the development of communication skills. Whether it is through written or spoken word, or through visual media, the arts require students to express themselves effectively. This skill is highly valuable in any field, as effective communication is key to success in many professions. Also, in an increasingly globalized world, the ability to understand and appreciate different cultures is essential. Arts education can expose students to different cultures and help them develop cultural competency.

Rapid change requires the ability to adapt to new situations and challenges. Arts education can help students develop adaptability by encouraging them to be flexible and to approach problems from different angles. Finally, it can be an important source of personal fulfillment. It allows students to express themselves creatively and explore their own identity. This can be especially important in a world where external pressures and expectations can be overwhelming.

A second challenging question to consider could also be “what is the value of arts for college applications, or simply as a lifelong interest?” Colleges generally view arts education positively, as it demonstrates a student’s creativity, passion and dedication to pursuing their interests. Admissions officers look for well-rounded students who have pursued a range of interests and activities, and arts education demonstrates this kind of versatility and engagement. Sir Ken Robinson states: “The arts, sciences, humanities, physical education, languages and math all have equal and central contributions to make to a student’s education. They are not separate subjects, but different facets of the same thing. They are different expressions of our humanity, and they are all important.”

In addition to the value of an arts education, there is also growing evidence that having many interests can lead to success. Modern polymaths, or individuals with a diverse range of interests and skills, are highly valued in the workforce. Beyond the workforce, having many interests can also lead to personal fulfillment. Pursuing multiple interests allows individuals to explore their passions and find what truly makes them happy. This can lead to a more fulfilling and satisfying life.

Recent research from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development shows that “Artistic and cultural education is an essential component of a comprehensive education, enabling individuals to develop creative and critical thinking, collaborative and communicative skills.”


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