The Value of Arts in Higher Education
Twentieth century philosopher and educational leader John Dewey and Twenty-first century cultural critic Richard Florida, although separated by two distinct cultural moments, share a viewpoint on the relationship between art and living. John Dewey in his 1934 book Art as Experience argued that art and life were integrally connected. Art he suggested functioned as an experience which engaged a process of inquiry that extended connections between various aspects of living. Richard Florida, author of the The Rise of the Creative Class links the creative process, often considered the realm of the arts, to economic success in the twenty-first century. Florida describes a new class of professionals he designates the ‘creative class’ that are distinctly different from those in the ‘working’ or ‘service class’ who are paid to execute the plans of others or from the ‘organizational man’ described by William Whyte in his 1956 book. The creative class is a group of professionals who “engage in complex problem solving that involves a great deal of independent judgment” and who “share a common creative ethos that values, creativity, individuality, difference and merit” in which all “manifestations of creativity are interlinked and inseparable” (2004, 8). This presentation uses Dewey and Florida as a starting point to advocate for the significance of arts and the skills associated with them in encouraging a conceptual framework that unites specificity with complexity, two valuable perspectives for twenty-first century problems.
Keywords: Arts, Higher Education, Richard Florida, John Dewey
Dr. Barbara Sellers-Young
Dean, Faculty of Fine Arts, York University