As the cable industry celebrates its 50th anniversary this
year, books are being written to tell our story; a museum is being built to preserve and
celebrate our living history; and the people, products and possibilities that we have
created are being aggressively pursued by new industries across America. Our story is
fascinating. And when you look behind the coaxial cable and fiber optics, the narrowband
and the broadband, the microwaves and the satellites, the old networks and the new
networks, you see that it is a story of people.
What kind of people? We've been called mavericks and
cowboys, pioneers and visionaries. I'd like to shift the paradigm for a moment and
call us artists. And then, I'd like to go a step further and suggest that as such, we
have a responsibility to ourselves and to our businesses to contribute to the development
of artistic sensibility in others -- particularly in the young people of our communities
across the country -- for the sake of our own companies, our industry and our
country's economic future.
When we think of artists in the traditional sense, we think
of people with vision who use the raw materials around them to create something new. We
think of people who take risks, who question the norm, who think outside of the box, who
continually strive for innovation and excellence and who pursue their goals with passion,
purpose and a strong sense of self, combined with a sensitivity to the world around them.
We think of people who are sometimes revered and sometimes attacked by their public. We
think of people who face continual challenges and occasional torment, but who generally
are fortunate enough, when it comes right down to it, to love their work.
Put aside the paint, clay, musical instruments and toe
shoes for a moment. Couldn't the above description fit the entrepreneurs, engineers,
programmers, operators, marketers and public-affairs professionals who have made our
industry what it is today? I say that we are artists.
As with all artists, our challenges increase as a factor of
the sophistication of our art. The more we create, the more we discover what can yet be
created. And the better we produce, the more demanding our public becomes. So how will we
meet the challenges ahead? What can we do now to pave the way, to ensure that those who
inherit what we have built are up to the challenge?
It's time to make sure that the paint, clay, musical
instruments and toe shoes don't disappear. It's time to support arts education
for all young people, certainly for the sake of our continuing cultural heritage, but
also, very practically, for the sake of our businesses.
Research is proving that an arts education has the power to
strengthen academic performance, to teach young people to work cooperatively, to
contribute to technical competence, to build the ability to choose among alternative
courses of action, to guide thinking, to foster the integration of knowledge and to help
young people develop an understanding of the diversity of our multicultural world and of
"quality" as a key issue.
Let me share some interesting facts:
Preschoolers with piano training performed 34
percent higher on tests measuring the brain functions that are essential to mastering
mathematics, engineering and science than preschoolers with just basic computer training (Neurological
Research Journal, February 1997).
Preschoolers with eight months of keyboard lessons
showed a 46 percent boost in their spatial-reasoning IQ (Rauscher, Shaw, Levine, Ky and
Wright, Music and Spatial Task Performance; A Casual Relationship, University of
California, Irvine, 1994).
The College Entrance Examination Board reports that
"students of the arts continue to outperform their nonarts peers on the SAT." In
an annual research study, with 1996 being the most current year available, those who
studied the arts for four or more years averaged 48 points higher on the verbal portion of
the SAT and 34 points higher on the math portion than those with no arts education.
The very best engineers and technical designers in
the Silicon Valley industry are, nearly without exception, practicing musicians. (Grant
Venerable, The Paradox of the Silicon Savior, as reported in The Case for
Sequential Music Education in the Core Curriculum of the Public Schools, The Center
for the Arts in the Basic Curriculum, New York, 1989).
I have chosen to provide these particular examples to
demonstrate that the arts can have a key role in developing our industry's future
employees -- and not just those in areas that are traditionally associated with the arts.
In a piece entitled What Work Requires of School,
the U.S. Department of Labor puts forth the following edict: "The ability to learn,
to reason, to think creatively, to make decisions and to solve problems will be essential
for anyone in the 21st century wanting to escape dead-end jobs and periods of
unemployment." And these are precisely the skills that an education in the arts
Turn this around and put it into the context of our own
industry's need for talented workers, and it comes down to the fact that supporting
education in the arts is at least one key way that we -- as employers -- can proactively
help to create a talented and entrepreneurial work force to ensure our industry's
To be competitive today, innovation, creativity and the
ability to deal with people and change are critical qualities in all new employees. I
personally look for five key traits in any new hire, the combination of which go a long
way toward determining one's ability to contribute in a meaningful way to an
organization and to realize professional success individually. I have come to believe that
each of these traits is very clearly fostered and developed by early participation in the
Ability to articulate a vision: I look for people who
can see the big picture, who talk easily about goals and who have a road map for reaching
them. Our most talented artists must approach their work in this way -- whether they are
directing a film, choreographing a dance, or writing a novel.
High tolerance for ambiguity: This trait may be the
single most important determinant of success in this age of rapid change. The
ever-changing nature of performance and interaction with one's audience provides an
artist -- even a very young one -- with firsthand experience with ambiguity.
Orientation toward results: Successful managers must be
able to get things done. The arts are wrapped up in "doing," in product and
Spirit of collaboration and empathy: The arts foster a
keen sensitivity to the artist's effect on those around him or her, as well as
insight into the dynamics of human interaction.
Sense of play: This is an ability to punctuate the
everyday with passion and fun. It is a necessary part of the artist's success and, I
maintain, just as necessary a part of a productive and fulfilling work environment.
So what do we do if we agree that these are important
qualities -- if we recognize the value of the arts and their potential for affecting the
learning ability, self-esteem and future employment potential of young people? After all,
we are trying to run businesses, to keep customers and governments happy and to launch new
networks and build technological infrastructures. How can we take on something else?
If we are creative and keep our goal in front of us, there
are many ways that our industry can build support of arts advocacy and education into the
work that we are already doing using resources that are already available or soon to be
What is broadband, after all, but "the way" to
deliver more information and resources to our communities? What is the Universal Service
Fund if not $4.45 billion worth of potential that we can help shape and direct? What is
unsold airtime if not an opportunity for communicating our commitment to our communities
through public-service announcements? What are our companies if not potential training
grounds for the new "artists" of our industry? How will we fill the new digital
universe? How are we dedicating our local-origination resources? What is the focus of our
Cable in the Classroom efforts?
There are, of course, many ways to answer these questions.
But if we keep the arts in mind when we do, we all stand to benefit.
Kathleen A. Dore is president of Bravo Networks.
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