We live in a sneering world where if one isn’t majoring in business or actively becoming a lawyer — one’s future is worthless and their worldview is infantile. Who needs a Poet when you can sell your soul and then sue the person for breach of contract when they buy it and try to take it home from you?
The Arts are, and have always been, under attack. As my mentor — Dr. Howard Stein — was fond of saying, “The Enemy of the Arts is the Humanities!” There is no safe haven on a university campus for any sort of self-defining aesthetic without risk of public ridicule.
I’m not sure when the businessman became more important than the philosopher — perhaps it happened around the same time the Playwright believed his own life was worthy of public inspection in a play — but I do know the bottom line has more social value today than, say, therapeutic catharsis and that makes each of us poorer as a person.
A public education and an advanced degree should allow us to explore the world as we relate to it for finding the best path forward: How we square the arc and curl the corner matters to our own comprehension of what’s happening to us.
Education is not a business to be monetized, but a process that leads to greater humanization of the self. If one may make a clearer association between morality and living by reading poetry instead of preaching the credit line, then we should encourage that creative capacity to imagine, without condescension.
Today, beyond the ivory garden graveyard, you are only what you earn — and if you aren’t part of the top 0.001%, then you are a failure and never a success — and that mindset is not just disturbing, but unseemly.
We best learn how to understand the world by interpreting its miscues and mishaps from the safe haven of what we value and what we think know we know — the access point for attack may change, but the result is always the same: a more winsome core, and then an encouraging of a future leading into deeper propagation.
I was told early in my English major career that most of us would use our degrees to get into law school — because 90% of those who go for a JD degree were undergraduate English majors first, and that path of study leads, pretty much irrevocably, to the courthouse, not the pew.
I believe the same could be said of any aesthetic major — the Dancer understands the shape and the feeling of the effects of the law; the Mechanist sees the associations between a grinding process and the oily morality of duty; the Painter values the tone of scope and the depth of an emotional wrenching that can carry the social day and win the guilty verdict.
We should encourage all our children to divine their own path that will lead them into their next being — be it the live stage, the Art Gallery, the operating room, teller’s cage, or the jury box. They will have a hundred lives to live, not just one like us, and it is from inside that exponential experimentation that they will lead the world into grander definition as we no longer box and define what emotional intelligence should become or how heartfelt knowledge must be valued in the hands of a Craftsman.