Wednesday, December 21, 2005

What to do with the arts?

I've been thinking a lot lately about the role of the arts in academia. For example, it's tough enough for a sensitive and creative reader to find his/her way through the contemporary theory-driven English department, but how much more so for the writer? The uselessness of a writing MFA is a cliche.

Thus I was interested to read in today's New York Times a discussion of college dance programs.

I love college-level arts instruction, but it seems to me to be doing people a disservice to offer a degree with so little expectation of a resulting career.

At the same time, the problem only exists because college-level education has become so career-driven. There is little room for dance instruction in a pre-medical program, and so the choice seems to become all or nothing. Take a dance BA, or don't study dance at all.

In a perfect world, an arts program wouldn't need specific numbers of graduates to justify its continued existence, but I fear that with declining state funding for public universities, administrative "indulgence" for arts programs without demonstrated revenue enhancing capacities can only decline.

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