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John M. Eger: The new normal includes art, science
September 04, 2018
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Well into the 1990s and certainly by 2000, any business that did not have the worldwide web or “dot-com” in its name was toast. We may have spent at least $2 trillion over three years to launch what is the internet of today. But this was only the beginning.

Outsourcing and offshoring soon followed. It’s cheaper, no question about it. We’ve seen a reduction in the cost of telecommunications; we’ve also seen a reduction in the cost of transportation. It doesn’t make sense to produce something yourself if you can outsource it.

What we didn’t see was the outsourcing of services too. That continues because almost anyone can get or has access to a computer. It used to be you had these huge rooms called the computer room. Not anymore; our laptops and palmtops have more processing power than it took to put a man on the moon.

Then came robotics and artificial intelligence and something called “The Internet of Everything.”

These rapid-fire advances in technology have ushered in a whole new economy, and with it challenges to our communities, our workplace and our entire system of education. At the university, we have known that change was necessary. Radical change. But meaningful change is not obvious.

In 2000, US Education Secretary Richard Riley, citing a Labour Department study, said, “the top 10 jobs most in demand, don’t yet exist; that will use technologies that haven’t yet been invented in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.” He was talking about 2020; and we’re not there yet. But his predictions have since multiplied.

A few years earlier, MacArthur Prize winner Robert Root-Bernstein was doing a survey of the top 100 scientists over the past 200 years. He and his wife recorded their findings in a book called “Sparks of Genius: The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People.”

What they found was that Galileo was not only a scientist but a poet and author. Albert Einstein played the violin and dreamed of playing Carnegie Hall. Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph, was a portrait painter. (Two of his works hang in the nation’s Capitol.)

What they concluded, and many of us in neuroscience and education alike are coming to realise, is that we have to find a way to marry art and science. It was C.P. Snow, author and scientist, who realised there were two groups of people: artists and scientists. And he argued we should and can be both; not one or the other.

As a consequence, more and more people are pushing STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math), not just STEM alone. According to the National Science Teachers Association, science teachers couldn’t teach without the arts. They’ve become huge supporters of STEAM. The National Science Foundation, which has the responsibility for promoting STEM, is spending a great deal of time developing grants and ideas for how to use arts-based learning to foster STEM innovation. Not surprisingly, more than 40 universities are now promoting arts integration, teaching all the disciplines through the arts, recognising the power and importance of nurturing “whole brain” people.

Most significantly, The National Academy of Sciences, after over two years of study, recommended that all universities fully integrate the arts and humanities in their curricula. The academy said, “This integrative model intentionally seeks to bridge the knowledge, modes of inquiry and pedagogies from multiple disciplines — the humanities, arts, sciences, engineering, technology, mathematics and medicine — within the context of a single course or program of study. In such a model, professors help students to make the connections between these disciplines in an effort to enrich and improve learning.”

We also must think about how to flip the classroom; to have most of the classroom work done outside the class; saving the classroom only for group think, brainstorming, dealing with problems that have arisen during the course of the flipped experience.

At San Diego State University, we are examining our catalog; we’re stacking art and science courses where we can; we hope to create new courses that we know are going to be necessary. The intent is to reinvent the university: to give our young people the new thinking skills that they will not only use to graduate but to enter the new economy.

This is only a beginning.

Tribune News Service

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