“You’re going to have an academic education here [at Ouachita] you’re never going to have to apologize for,” Mike Huckabee told a room full of current Ouachita students. The Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Governor had just delivered a lecture about the integral role of the arts in the education system on September 24 (2007) in Jones Performing Arts Center.
Huckabee, a 1976 Ouachita alumnus, spoke on behalf of Ouachita’s new Center for Education and Public Policy (CEPP), which hosted the lecture as the first in a series of lectures pertaining to the future of education reform.
After a warm welcome from Ouachita President Dr. Rex Horne, Jr., Huckabee was quick to express his gratitude for having received a Ouachita education before moving on to the wider subject at hand – the importance of obtaining a “true music and arts education.” He pointed out that the education system suffers whenever funds for the fine arts are cut or when certified teachers do not teach these classes.
“If we are truly going to see not only an educational environment that challenges students, but also that builds the kind of economy that will help us to be competitive and not just survive but thrive in the future of what we often speak of as a global economy, then we better make sure we do not neglect nor cancel out the importance, the value, and the significance of an education that includes music and the arts,” Huckabee said.
He emphasized that the future economy depends upon human creativity, a God-given characteristic. Huckabee said, “If God is the creator . . . and we have been created in His image, it would be the logical conclusion that . . . part of what He has created in us is a creativity that ought to be stimulated and enhanced.”
Huckabee believes people’s creativity is increasingly being stifled and that the U.S. has focused on the logical left side of the brain to the extent that the capacities of the brain’s right side have been limited, leaving thousands of students bored at school.
“Music and art can be life-changing,” he said. “If we take it out of the hands of a child . . . we may have taken something not just from their hands, but from their hearts.” Huckabee demonstrated the value of the arts as he cited studies revealing that students who study music will improve their academic scores in math, science, foreign language, and even spatial reasoning. He said that music teaches students how to learn, and he described music as a cultural norm that transcends generations.
“The arts become an important part of who we are,” Huckabee said. He referred to another study that showed that the best predictor of which high schoolers will attend and finish college was not race or poverty but “exposure to and participation in a broad, wide, and rigorous curriculum, including music and art, at the high school level.”
He believes that the educational system today cannot deny the power of the arts.
“One of the great tools we need to unleash is a weapon of mass instruction,” Huckabee said. “It is the power of music, the power of art, the power of creativity. It can change not just individual lives; it can change our nation and change our future.”
Huckabee’s efforts echo Dr. Horne’s familiar call for a generation of difference makers. Huckabee received an education at Ouachita that he is proud of, and he hopes to help provide, in his plans for educational reform, a similarly rewarding education to the rest of the nation’s students.