To the Editor:
David Burns’ remarks in his recent Commentary “Creativity: The Path to Economic Recovery” (May 13, 2009) are conspicuously correct, timely, and deserving of attention by every prospective reformer of education. Taking his thoughts a step further, the skills our nation desperately needs in its young people include discipline, flexibility, and the ability to work cooperatively with others, in addition to creativity. As it happens, there’s nothing taught in schools that develops those skills more effectively than the arts.
The nature of work has become so specialized, and changes so rapidly, that employers want to train their own employees. What they need from schools are graduates who are trainable, and that means graduates with a solid background in the basic disciplines, including the arts.
Employability is an important byproduct of education, but not its major goal. Neither is market dominance. In my view, the primary purpose of education is the pursuit of truth and beauty, the development of human capacities, and the improvement of quality of life. Ultimately, we should judge our educational system by its ability to build a better life for every member of society.
Paul R. Lehman
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Mich.
A version of this article appeared in the June 10, 2009 edition of Education Week as Quality of Life, Not Jobs, Should Be Education’s Goal