I have many friends who are tireless advocates of the arts, and arts education (music, dance, visual art, etc.), and I have always admired their enthusiasm and passion. I also place a high value on the importance of art, and arts education. But, I often wonder why those in a position to create/shape public policy do not share this passion. How can they not see the meaningful personal, cultural, educational, and societal benefits of having a thriving arts community (that includes vibrant and creative arts education programs)?
This morning I saw a TED talk on the topic of what motivates people to work hard. Conventional wisdom would suggest that a monetary reward, or the like, might be the most influential. But is that really the case? I know that I work just as hard when I am performing at a senior center or church for little or no money. Many times, I even find more joy in those performances over those that I am paid well. Why is that? And, how does that relate to helping policy makers find a higher value in the arts and arts education?
My high valuation of art, especially music, as Dan Ariely explains in the TED talk embedded below, is because I work hard at my craft. Mr. Ariely suggests that most of us thrive by making constant progress and feeling a sense of purpose. That is true in my own experience! I find joy in that journey toward the next performance, NOT just the end result. Just like a mountain climber finds success and joy in the trek to the top of the highest peak.
In contrast, many policy makers have little or no experience in creating art. They have not spent the countless hours that many of us have spent in mastering their craft. Thus, the value they place on the arts and arts education is much lower than mine.
Perhaps the best way to convince policy makers to invest more into the arts and education is to provide them an opportunity to have a meaningful arts experience. Not just attending a great concert, or visiting an impressive art gallery, or seeing a stunning dance performance. But an actual activity that puts the policy maker in a position where they have to WORK at trying to master one of the arts – even for just a short time.
In this TED talk, two eye-opening experiments are presented that reveal our unexpected and nuanced attitudes toward meaning in our work.