Mayor, NU president talk up the arts

NU President Morton Schapiro and Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl.

Enjoyment of the arts is what makes life worth living, according to Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro.

Schapiro and Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl emphasized the importance of art in both the Evanston and NU communities during opening remarks given at an Evanston Symphony Orchestra concert held Sunday afternoon at NU's Pick-Staiger Concert Hall.

The performance was entitled "Celebrate Evanston!" in honor of the city's 150th birthday.

Exposure to the arts makes us better people, Tisdahl said, and the amount of support for the arts is "part of what a community is judged on."

Today, educational institutions place a strong focus on STEM -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- fields, but the arts and the humanities are also integral to society, Schapiro said.

He cited NU's planned renovation and expansion of Kresge Hall, which serves students studying the humanities, and construction of a new arts center at the university as proof of the institution's commitment to the arts and humanities.

Work in STEM fields may help keep people alive, but "the reason we want to live is for the humanities and the performing arts," Schapiro said.

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STEM, Humanities, Social Science and Arts

NU and many school could provide students with a strong education in STEM, Humanities and Social Sciences, if they adopted strong requirements in each area----e.g. one year calculus, one year 'university' physics required for ALL students. Likewise in Humanities and Social Sciences the types of courses required of students in the 1940-1950s where Western literature and history; philosophy, economics, psychology, world religions, and 'academic' language, etc. were required. Students could use electives for cultural studies if they wanted. Arts were seen as exposure to world art, music, theater [e.g. Greek/Roman plays, Shakespeare]. Instead performance music and theater, journalism---job placement courses--are the majors of many students and probably electives of many more. The university also wants or is forced by students to offer majors [with required faculty hires] for obscure and basically meaningless courses that turn out to be propaganda instead of education with little hope of jobs or even 'education' that vocationally or developmental will help them---many students could probably get their fill with ad hoc majors. There are only so many courses students can take in four years---or afford to add courses. If universities stuck to a REAL liberal arts education---which includes real math/science---there would not be much of a need to complain about lack of availability of 'arts', humanity and social science education. What university and civic leaders and residents really mean by 'arts' are performance productions---NOT a STUDY of the arts though history. NU [probably more than most] has become vocational training for journalists, musicians, and would-be actors---who will not graduate with a good education or the real chance to earn a living in their field. Yes, a history, philosophy or English degree many not directly lead to a job, but they will provide a broad education that businesses will respect---and take as a sign of a level of intelligence.