Art and Education in an Innovation Economy

Ensuring America’s Success in the 21st Century

Essay, 2011
38 Pages



Fourteen years ago San Diego State University, working with the California Department of Transportation developed the concept of “smart communities”-- communities using new wired and wireless information infrastructures to connect every home, office, school, and hospital, organization and institution, large and small, to one another and through the Worldwide Web, to millions of other individuals and institutions around the world.

These infrastructures are important. But we quickly discovered smart let alone creative communities cannot exist without smart and creative people. Unfortunately too little has been clearly articulated about what makes us smart and, importantly, creative.

According to Business Week Magazine: “The game is changing … it isn't just about math and science anymore (although those are surely important disciplines) it's about creativity, imagination, and, above all, innovation."1

If creativity and innovation will be the hallmarks of the most successful communities in the 21st century we need to know the answers to the fundamental questions of what makes us creative, innovative, and imaginative.

The effort to create a 21st century community is not so much about technology as it is about jobs, dollars and quality of life. It is about organizing one's community to reinvent itself for the new, knowledge economy and society; preparing its citizens to take ownership of their community; and, most importantly, about educating the next generation of leaders and workers to meet the global, social, political and economic challenges we face.

This commentary focuses on education and the vital role of the arts in preparing our young people for a new and uncertain future.

Although many people still believe that the arts “are nice but not necessary,” it is becoming increasingly apparent that the arts are not a frill or an ancillary enrichment activity for elites. Indeed, they may be the most important aspect of a 21st century education. Our schools need the arts and an art-infused curriculum to ensure our children’s’ and our country’s competitiveness in the new global innovation economy.


The challenge America faces in the wake of global competition is daunting.

We have lost our dominance in manufacturing, as well as in the provision of services like banking, accounting and insurance. Computers and Internet access can be found almost everywhere in the world, and most countries can provide such services anywhere, anytime and usually at a fraction of what it costs in the U. S.

Globalization 3.0, as author andNew York Timescolumnist, Thomas Friedman calls it, is here.2 Outsourcing jobs and off--shoring companies are commonplace. We are currently suffering what economists are euphemistically calling a “jobless recovery,” and our communities and schools are facing challenges not well understood by politicians, policy makers or parents.

Twenty years ago it was fashionable to blame foreign competition and cheap labor markets abroad for the loss of manufacturing jobs in the U. S., but the pain of the loss was softened by the emergence of a new services industry. Now, it is the service sector jobs that are being lost, and research and development, which is the life-blood of an Innovation Economy.

In just the last few years, IBM, the world's largest computer maker, acknowledged that a number of software and chip development and engineering jobs were being moved to India and China.3 Industry stalwarts like Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Dell Computer announced that they, too, were either outsourcing their software development or expanding their foreign subsidiaries in China, India, the Eastern Bloc, or Russia to do the same.

Now these same companies and many others, as a matter of economic survival, have not only continued to outsource jobs but have off- shored entire divisions of their companies.

According, a new web site devoted to reporting on the loss of American jobs “frequently, work is off-shored in order to reduce labor expenses. Other times, the reasons for off-shoring are strategic -- to enter new markets, to tap talent currently unavailable domestically or to overcome regulations that prevent specific activities domestically.”4

We don’t know exactly how many jobs are lost from outsourcing or off shoring. But this shift of high tech service jobs will be a permanent feature of economic life in the 21st century. And it is clear that the pervasive worldwide spread of the Internet, digitization and the availability of white-collar skills abroad--where the labor cost alone may justify the move--mean huge cost savings for the global corporations.

Making matters worse, we are nowhere near ready to capture the high ground in the new competitive environment, given the lackluster performance of our systems of education today.

Former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch reported on the results of the latest international assessment—the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), first performed in 2000 and repeated every three years. PISA is a worldwide evaluation of 15-year-old school pupils' scholastic performance, coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) with a view to improving educational policies and outcomes.

She warned, “Our students scored in the middle of the pack! We are not No. 1! Shanghai is No. 1! We are doomed unless we overtake Shanghai!” She further argued: “The lesson of PISA is this: Neither of the world's two highest-performing nations (China and Finland) do what our "reformers" want to do. How long will it take before our political leaders begin to listen to educators? How long will it take before they realize that their strategies have not worked anywhere? How long will it be before they stop inflicting their bad ideas on our schools, our students, our teachers, and American education?”5

TheNew York Times,also reporting on the PISA tests, interviewed US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who said: “We have to see this as a wake-up call…I know skeptics will want to argue with the results, but we consider them to be accurate and reliable, and we have to see them as a challenge to get better.” He added. “The United States came in 23rd or 24th in most subjects. We can quibble, or we can face the brutal truth that we’re being out-educated”.6 The changes most policymakers and economists are talking about center around creativity and innovation7, because

knowledge, broadly defined, is our salvation. We need to lead the world in new inventions, patents, products and services.



Thomas Friedman’s “Globalization 3.0” recognizes the tremendous growth the Internet has had literally flattening the playing field and ushering in a form of economic competition for jobs where everyone anywhere is able to compete with everyone else.

No previous telecommunications advance - not the telephone, the television, cable or even the cell phone is having more cultural and political impact on the global media landscape than the Internet. It has completely penetrated and dominated public consciousness and rapidly secured widespread public adoption.

As nations around the world awaken to the importance of creating a robust communications infrastructure, they will slowly but surely develop their Internet strategies attracting high tech service jobs that were once located in the United States. The net result of these new Internet strategies will be fewer jobs for America as nations and individuals compete for goods and services in this new global, often virtual, marketplace.

Neither a high school diploma nor a coveted degree from one of America’s great universities will ensure our young people get hired. Those diplomas and degrees are worth little unless our graduates can join the ranks of the most creative and innovative knowledge workers. Creativity and innovation will be the hallmarks of the most successful companies, nations, communities and individuals.

The current worldwide financial meltdown has gutted our job market and as the dust settles, we are facing a “jobless recovery.” one where corporations do well, and the stock market appears to reflect those increased earnings, but the unemployment rate remains static. The situation is dire and our systems of education are challenged as never before as our schools try to solve 21st century problems using 12th century techniques.

One problem is the failure to acknowledge the interdisciplinary world in which everything is connected to everything else, and the structure of our educational system fails to] embrace this reality.

The Chronicle of Higher Education, an academic journal covering postsecondary education in the United States, recently raised the question of whether university majors are "silos" inhibiting learning.8 Silos are one of

the reasons that administrators and faculty have such a difficult time making changes that count. The silos exist in K-12 and our community colleges too.

Compounding the problem, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, is that young people will "have 10 to 14 jobs by age 38." In addition, according to former Education Secretary Richard Riley, "the top 10 jobs that will be in demand (don't yet exist) and they will be using technologies that haven't been invented. In order to solve problems we don't even know are problems yet."9

With the proliferation of the Internet and the computerization of news archives and libraries available on the Worldwide Web, literally thousands of references are available at the click of a mouse. In an age where we are discovering that everything is connected to everything else, what we really need to do is create the interdisciplinary curriculum that emphasizes the new economy, the role of technology and the spirit of enterprise - specifically creativity and innovation.











Excerpt out of 38 pages


Art and Education in an Innovation Economy
Ensuring America’s Success in the 21st Century
San Diego State University
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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603 KB
Art and the Innovation economy
creativity, innovation, workplace, education art integration
Quote paper
Professor John Eger (Author), 2011, Art and Education in an Innovation Economy, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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