Arts or Academia?

08/03/2019

The other day, one of my brothers mentioned some online quiz he and some school friends of his did that told them their ‘political alignment’. I have no idea what quiz it was, and I doubt there was any particular accuracy in the results, but there was one question he told me as an example that interested me. It was something along the lines of (paraphrasing) “Which do you think are more important, business and the economy, or writers and artists?” Do we have to pick? The correct answer, I believe, is that we need both.

As someone doing a dual degree in IT (academic) and Creative Industries (QUT’s version of a ‘more employable’ arts degree), I find more often than not that the two streams have complemented each other quite well. It is also necessary to mention that, while I am talking about my experiences in a university context, this discussion easily applies to those who have not done formal study but are still experienced or dabbling in one industry or other.

I have heard a few times (often in jest, but other times more critical) that CI is ‘lesser’ than other degrees, and no small part of that is self-deprecation from CI students talking down about their craft. Admittedly, I have made similarly self-inflicted jokes about my choice of writing as my CI major, going into it initially out of an interest in fiction writing that has thus far materialised nothing outside of ideas for fantasy stories. Since then, my interest in history and politics has thrown me in a middle ground of, I suppose, ‘academic’ writing on this site. In retrospect, majoring in journalism would have made more sense had I known this is where I’d be now, but I don’t regret taking on creative writing units because I enjoyed them, and they’ve been beneficial and instructive.

There is no need to justify an academic pathway; everyone knows the importance and worth of the sciences, business, etc. etc. It is disheartening to see, however, that there are those who discredit or outright shame the arts as a worthwhile pathway for people. There are two ways in which the arts are actually vital to society as a whole, and maybe one could argue more important in some ways than academia, but that would be up to personal opinion. The first is using one’s creative skills to complement their academic venture. Some are self-explanatory, like animation, architecture, design – there are countless academic fields that require artistic talent in some form. In a more abstract way, a creative mind allows people to pick up on more creative methods or concepts. In business or IT, for example, this could mean coming up with an innovative solution to a particular project or problem.

The second is art for the purpose of artistic value. A writer writes, a director creates a film, a painter exalts a canvas. It is purely a creative endeavour meant to be appreciated by the creator and the observer alike. Libraries, cinemas/theatres, and art galleries all contribute to the culture of the society they belong to. The arts and academia are intertwined, and no one path is more important than the other because they all offer value. Hawking is a household name because of the magnificent strides he made in physics. Tolkien, while an academic in his own right, is also a household name because he wrote one of the greatest, if not the greatest, and most timeless works of fiction, and is considered the father of all modern fantasy.

This is just a small thought that probably doesn’t do the subject matter any justice, but I thought it was worth commenting on. Political alignment, as the quiz my brother told me about indicated, has nothing really to do with whether academia or the arts are considered more important. A wise person would see both intellectual and cultural aspects of society as vital and valuable, with the two of them complementing each other to create the world that we perceive.

 

Liked this? Read Are Universities “Leftist Strongholds”?

Previous piece: Some Things Just Aren’t Political, Like Abortion

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