ARKADELPHIA, Ark. (BP)–Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee stressed the importance of music and art in education as he delivered a lecture at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., Sept. 24, noting that students made by a creative God should be encouraged in their own creativity.
“I tend to think that one of the greatest mistakes in education over the past generation has been that many school districts have cut their budgets in music and art programs,” said Huckabee, a 1976 graduate of Ouachita. “And in doing so, they’ve done one of the dumbest things that could ever be done that really is harmful to students in this country.”
Appearing on behalf of Ouachita’s new Center for Education and Public Policy, which Huckabee helped develop with the school’s former president in 2003, the former governor of Arkansas said he would not be where he is today without the opportunities afforded to him at the Baptist school.
“I cannot be here without saying what an incredible gift God gave me in allowing me to have the incredible experience of a Ouachita education,” Huckabee said, adding that his sister and two of his three children also are Ouachita graduates.
Huckabee said the arts are not extracurricular, extraneous or expendable but are as essential as any other subject a school might offer. Too many schools have cut funding for music and art classes, he said, because of budget constraints coupled with the fact that students are not tested on the arts.
“The one cultural norm that transcends all of the generations, all languages is the transmission of our culture through our art forms. It is the one way in which one generation speaks to the next,” Huckabee said.
“… It makes perfect sense when you think that even in the way that God designed us, we were designed to be creative. After all, if He is the Creator and He has made a creation and we have been created in His image, it would be the logical conclusion that in His image, since He’s a creative God, that part of what He has created in us is a creativity that ought to be stimulated and enhanced and somehow not put aside,” he added.
As governor, Huckabee signed a law that mandated every child in Arkansas schools have music and art classes every week under the leadership of certified teachers.
“There was a survey done not long ago of CEOs across the Fortune 500 companies in America, and [the survey] wanted to know what they were looking for in terms of future employees,” Huckabee said. “Ninety percent of the CEOs said that their primary challenge was attracting and retaining talented people.”
Some would think CEOs are looking for technical talents, but actually they’re looking for creativity, he said.
“It’s not simply people who know something but people who have imagination in knowing what to do with what they know,” Huckabee said.
A former Ouachita trustee, Huckabee recommended that students read a book by Richard Florida, “The Rise of the Creative Class,” in which the author predicts that the future economy will be driven not by those who are strong in technology, agriculture or manufacturing but those who are creative.
“The accommodation of the creative class really is the foundation for the future of our nation’s economic strength,” Huckabee said.
When he was governor, Huckabee served as chairman of the Education Commission of the States, which is comprised of all 50 governors and the education chiefs in each state. Huckabee chose as the theme of his tenure a focus on music and art and their value in the educational environment. His colleagues were shocked, he said, because in the 45-year history of the commission no one had ever chosen such a theme.
“The reality is, an education is not an education if all it does is stimulate the left side, or the logical side, of the brain,” Huckabee said. “In fact, imagine a computer that’s nothing more than a database. It might be a magnificent database with incredible capacity for storage of information. But if you have a computer that is nothing but a database and it does not have a processor, I would suggest that you really don’t have a computer; you have a boat anchor.
“The value of a computer is not just in its database, it’s in the capacity of its processor to take the data and to be able to use it in some significant way that goes beyond the capacity that you would have without the computer,” Huckabee added.
The presidential candidate said that because the United States has an education system that has so focused on the left side of the brain to the neglect of the right side of the brain, every day 6,000 students drop completely out of school.
“And that’s not the greatest tragedy,” he said. “In addition to the ones who just walk away from school completely, millions more take the most expensive nap in America with their heads down on their desks paid for by the taxpayers. And it’s not because they’re dumb. It’s not because they’re incapable of learning. It’s because they are bored.”
Huckabee mentioned five basic steps of the learning process, which he identified as imagination, dedication, perspiration, creation and education.
“Most of us don’t have to be stimulated in the arts when we’re little. We grow up singing the songs at church or at home,” he said. “I wouldn’t even have to ask how many of you when you were a little kid sang your lungs out, maybe watching television or listening to CDs ….
“Nobody had to beg you to sing when you were 4 years old. Many of you who sang your heart out when you were 4 wouldn’t dare be caught singing today,” Huckabee said. “What happened? I’ll tell you what happened. Someone along the course of your educational experience beat the ever-living creativity out of you, and instead of stimulating that creativity, helped you to somehow believe that you weren’t good enough at it to continue it.”
Rather than encouraging students in their creativity, the American educational system has stifled children’s ability to express themselves in one of the most natural ways, he said.
“It’s almost a criminal act that we would somehow try to put a damper on that which I believe God put inside every one of us,” Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist pastor, told students.
A student who is exposed to music in school will see improved academic scores in math, science and the study of foreign languages because a person who learns music learns how to learn, Huckabee said.
“Learning how to learn can be applied to any other discipline,” he said.
Also, a student with music exposure will score 40 points higher on an SAT test in math because his spatial reasoning is improved and his capacity for abstract thinking is more significant, Huckabee said.
Following his lecture, Huckabee answered questions from students on topics ranging from bridge construction and immigration to the war in Iraq and the campaign trail. To watch a webcast of Huckabee’s lecture at Ouachita, visit www.obu.edu.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.