If schools had no choice but to teach only arts or sports, then I would choose arts. The best argument in support of this somewhat authoritarian decision that I seem to have been forced into making is that art allows children to develop their creative thinking abilities.
Though sport is valuable in promoting physical activity, competitiveness and goal-setting abilities, and is particularly useful for children who enjoy physical activity, a child who enjoys physical activity can still find out-of-school sporting opportunities. Competitiveness and goal-setting can be incorporated easily into other aspects of a curriculum; whereas the sort of creativity that is learned through art is harder to transfer into the teaching of other subjects.
Many sciences, including engineering, benefit when those who study them have well-formed imaginations and are creative individuals. Art is an extremely good way of helping to develop lateral thinking. Some of the world’s best known scientists and inventors were very creative people. Albert Einstein, best known for his “Theory of Relativity,” said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Though a scientist, he understood the importance of imagination.
Creative thinking is now recognised as an important part of developing business management skills. Creative thinking as a form of thinking in business has been defined as problem solving, as opposed to more linear thinking, which is in line with the concepts relating to the difference between the left brain and the right brain, where the left brain is more linear in its processing and the right brain sees the whole and then breaks it down into parts. It is, therefore, right that a school should seek to develop both the left and right sides of a child’s brain. There are many knowledge-based subjects taught at school, and it is, therefore, sensible in developing thinking skills to give time to developing the right side.
The creative industries are also an important part of most developed economies, and their importance should not be underestimated; however, graduates in liberal arts subjects do often achieve success in other areas. According to Edwin W. Koc, in an article in the New York Times, though graduates with technical skills may at first have an advantage over those with liberal arts degrees, the skills learned by studying liberal arts, including the breadth of knowledge, communication, organisation, and judgment, mean that they catch up, in employment terms after about 10 years.
My preference, were I to be in such a position of power to impose this difficult choice on all schools, would be to allow them to teach both arts and sports, as the aim of any school should be to develop the talents and abilities of all its pupils. However, if I had to I would choose art over sport.