Fulbright: Arts Build International Understanding

You know about the Fulbright Program, the grant and scholarship vehicle for grad students, teachers and professionals founded by Sen. J. William Fulbright. Its scholars and prize honorees include Bill Clinton, Colin Powell, Silvia Plath, Joseph Heller, Jonathan Frazer, etc. Well, now the program is under the wing of the senator’s wife, Harriet Mayor Fulbright, and she’s saying that arts and humanities can create a new utopia, in the States and all over the world.

The Australian‘s Matthew Westwood discusses her speech to the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney about the role of the arts and humanities in building international understanding:

In her Sydney address, Fulbright will explain that the established educational measures of numeracy and literacy are too limited and that there are other intelligences that we may associate with creativity: visual, kinesthetic, musical and social.

Understanding between people of different cultures, she says, is aided when the tools of communication are not limited to language.

She gives an example from 40 years ago. Living in Moscow, she saw a performance by the visiting New York City Ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre: the Bolshoi Ballet, in turn, was touring the US. The abstract, American style of choreography astonished the Russians, who had not seen such freedom of movement. She says it became a much more powerful way to describe the benefits of individual expression than any lecture.

Fulbright says the arts and humanities should coexist in centres of learning along with the sciences and vocational subjects. But, in the US as elsewhere, courses with economic benefit have been favoured at the expense of the liberal arts.