I’m a bad artist. Oh, did I say bad? I meant really REALLY bad. When I was young I was never thought of as the artist of the family. I was the math and science nerd. I couldn’t draw or paint very well. I wasn’t great and singing and reading music didn’t come naturally to me. So why was I still drawn to all things artsy? I recognize my strengths are more in tune with the technical and mental side of things, so why do I still have the desire to do creative things? Why do I feel so fulfilled whenever I get a chance to work on creative projects?
First off, I would like to take a moment to touch on the myth of the left and right brain idea. The traditional belief that was presented to me as a child was that you have two sides of your brain that deal in either creative expression or more logical reasoned thinking. As a child hearing this theory, I assumed since I was more math-brained that must mean I wasn’t creative. I hope it doesn’t come as a surprise when I say that in the world of neuroscience this is a myth. There are certainly correlations between certain activities and parts of the brain, but no left and right side correlations exist.
I would also argue that the idea of there being creative and logical people is a self-fullfilling prediction and a detriment to the development of a child’s brain. Children who take a natural liking or are just decent at math are encouraged to focus on this skill rather than taking any time to cultivate any creative skills. This can be seen years later in the amount of sloppy science journalism or the uncreative naming schemes employed by doctors and scientists. Meanwhile children who have the propensity for drawing and painting are discouraged from studying math being told it’s too hard for them or that they naturally aren’t good at it.
Multiple studies have shown throughout the years the importance of the benefits of kids having an arts education. According to a study conducted back in 20191, Brian Kisida and Daniel H Bowen reported the following:
We find that a substantial increase in arts educational experiences has remarkable impacts on students’ academic, social, and emotional outcomes. Relative to students assigned to the control group, treatment school students experienced a 3.6 percentage point reduction in disciplinary infractions, an improvement of 13 percent of a standard deviation in standardized writing scores, and an increase of 8 percent of a standard deviation in their compassion for others. In terms of our measure of compassion for others, students who received more arts education experiences are more interested in how other people feel and more likely to want to help people who are treated badly. (https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2019/02/12/new-evidence-of-the-benefits-of-arts-education/)
While higher grades and better academic performance are important, I would argue that this goes beyond this. Creativity is a skill that healthily functioning adults need to have. If more scientists were able to express ideas through writing, or effectively communicate through other mediums maybe we would have less of the issues with people questioning science that we have today.
However, in addition to the skill, creativity is also an important part of the human experience. We’re social creatures who express ourselves in a number of ways. Artistic kids have a lot to say to be sure, but they are regularly good communicators naturally. Kids who lean towards academics have a lot to say but not a lot of chances to say it. Giving children opportunities to express themselves through writing, music, or even traditional art like drawing, painting, or sculpting could boost the confidence of children who on a whole tend to be more introverted. Give a math nerd a drawing class and maybe it’ll increase his penmanship as I byproduct while also giving him a fun, creative escape from the sometimes mundane world of STEM. Let a student who tends to spend more energy on his science classes a role in the school play and he might just make some new friends outside of his circle of geeks.
As I mentioned before, I’m not a great artist. But I still enjoy doodling, writing music, and even woodworking as methods of self-expression beyond the artistic skills that I’m good at like writing. Art is a skill that, although it comes easier to some, can be cultivated in kids of all backgrounds and interests. These are skills that go a long way in making you into a more rounded human being. Despite all the stereotypes of being a nerd that apply to me, I’m also a creative type. Maybe it’s time other science students started recognizing that in themselves too.
- Study by Daniel H. Bowen, Ph.D and Brian Kisida, Ph.D, Investigating Causal Effects of Arts Education Experiences (https://rice.app.box.com/s/nyrlcfjogvnkzmjo2tk49kdpckhvj3hi)