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Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim: Arts Center of the 21st Century

Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim: Arts Center of the 21st Century


>>Male: Thank you everyone. You know I’m not, I’m not a
practitioner of the arts except for one example this
past year which I’ll talk to you a little bit about. But I have always
been fascinated by you know it’s great, I was
sitting next to Charles Swanson who is the director of
the Hansure Auditorium. And I was just telling him
that we lived about 30 minutes from the University of
Iowa in Muscatine, Iowa. My, both my father and my
mother were huge arts patrons. They were both singers. And my mother played the piano when she was growing
up in Korea. They went to school
in New York City and literally scrapped
together all their money to go to the opera and
to the symphony. And so Hansure Auditorium in Iowa quite literally
kept my parents alive. Without Hansure Auditorium. [ Laughter ] [ Applause ] I remember as a kid
being dragged and that’s how it
felt to concerts. But I saw Emile Galose
play the piano. I saw Horowitz. I saw the greatest musicians and I didn’t even know
what was happening to me. You know I was a, I was
an athlete and I wanted to play sports and things. And yet that exposure has
stuck with me forever. My sister is an opera singer
now because of her many, many summers in the
University of Iowa music camps. And she’s teaching
ad she’s not singing as much professionally anymore. So it’s been important to me
and important to me in a way that I didn’t always realize. This is the group Polobolus. They made this to welcome me. [ Background noise ] I was so touched by that,
that they would do that. And if you look at it
carefully there’s incredible complexity there. That’s all human beings. And of course you know
and you’ll see tonight, Polobolus was started here. And we’re so, so proud of them. And that’s the sort of
creativity that we truly want to engender in our students. You know at my inauguration
I brought a group and they’re called
[foreign name]. And literally in Korean
it means four things play. [Foreign name]. And the reason I asked them is because for the last 25 years
I’ve been doing mostly social justice work. And so music for me
was most interesting in its most revolutionary form. This is farmer’s music. And in the 60s and 70s if you
participated in [foreign name] which is really the banging
of literally pots and pans, that’s what they were made
out of and drums and singing and doing the farmers
very athletic dances, you could get arrested. So doing [foreign name]
was a sign of resistance to the military government. Now it’s become part
of what’s now thought of as Korean folklore. But think about what’s
happening in the arts in Korea. You know when I went
there to visit recently, there were two huge concerns. One was oh my goodness we’re
teaching all of our classes in English, we’re going
to lose our culture. But then the people who really
understood a lot more said but wait a minute,
99% of the movies that Korean people
watch are in Korean. And 90 plug percent of the music
Koreans listen to is in Korean. In fact, something called
[foreign name] which is the wave of Korean culture is
spreading across Asia. They have redone the hip
hop music in Korean form. And it’s now all over Asia
in Korean being appreciated in so many different ways. So on the one hand they’re
being very practical and saying the language,
the lingual frank of the world is English so
we’re going to teach in English. But culture in the
form of music, in the form of movies is
actually moving very strongly in the direction of an indigenous
cultural production system that has kept alive cultural
themes and the language in a way that’s just
extraordinary. I’m myself am hooked
on Korean soap operas. But the Korean soap operas,
the ones that we, that my wife and I watch from beginning
to end were of the gentleman that originated Korean
traditional medicine, that wrote the greatest text
on Korean traditional medicine. So not only was it interesting
for us but it was difficult to understand because
they were using language from 150 years ago. So the arts have done this
extraordinary thing for Korea. Not only are they barreling
forward with internationalism, in fact the level
of English literacy because of the decisions
they’ve made is just far and away higher than in Japan. And I think it’s given them
a very strategic advantage. And at the same time they’re
eclipsing Japan in terms of the amount of cultural
production and the way, and their ability to export it. So I have been a student of it,
of the arts, not a practitioner but a student of it but for
pretty specific reasons. This is an extraordinary
place here. You know President
Hopkins from 1916 to 1945, he was president during the
depression, during World War I and he always wanted
to build an art center but just didn’t have
the resources to do it. So his successor, John
Salndicky from the class of 1929 who was a student under President Hopkins
built it in his honor. The architect on the far left
is Wallace Harrison, someone, some of you may know him. He’s the person who designed
the Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center, Rockefeller
Center and the UN building. So the lineage of this building
is really quite extraordinary. You know the arts and you all
know this better than anyone. The arts without
any explanation, without any justification, without any rationalization
are important. I, you know as an anthropologist
study the drawings in the caves of Les
Co in France. And understand that it’s not that there was any
kind of utility to art. It just has been a part
of human civilization for as long as we know. But let me be a little bit nerdy
and raise a couple of questions. And the questions that have
come to my mind again and again. Why is art so important? Why is art so unifying
from place to place? You know in the poorest
communities in the face of the earth, these devotion
to the arts is sometimes so ferocious that
it knocked me back. First time I visited
Haiti we went to a village that was a three hour walk. And it was, I was taken
there specifically because it was the
poorest village of all. And as we walked
into the village, a group of children
expecting us came over the hill and serenaded us. And it was one of the
most moving moments and I thought oh my goodness
these people are dying of tuberculosis and starvation. These children came over and
serenaded us and sang three or four wonderful songs. And then they killed they
practically only chicken to feed us. And so the fact that no matter where you go people no matter
how poor they are ferociously dedicated to their art is
something that requires I think at least understanding
if not explanation. In Rwanda right down the street from our clinic is
an artisan’s workshop where they make beautiful
relief paintings out of cow dung because that’s the
only thing they have. That’s the only thing that will
form and harden and I have many of those in my own home. So forgive me for thinking
of arts first as a way of capturing a revolutionary
spirit and second as a way of expression that is so
ubicudous across cultures that it leads me
to ask a question. What are the biological morale
deeply physiological aspects of the arts that
makes it so persistent and that make people
devoted to it so ferociously? You know with Brian
Kennedy and a group of others we began
exploring a question. And the question for us was not
what are the subjects we need to teach here at
Dartmouth College. I mean I was a new president,
I was allowed to ask really, really simplistic questions. But we asked a different
set of questions. What are the fundamental habits
of the mind that we are trying to build in our students? What are we doing to 18
to 22 year old brains? One of the things I came in
here knowing was that our sense of neuroplasticity, the
ability for the brain to evolve and change throughout one’s
lifetime is far greater than any of us had thought. We thought it was pretty
much done by 18 or 19. In fact neural connections
are being made and remade all the time. One of my closest friends
is the world’s experience on computational neural anatomy. Mapping out the connections and
how they change over a lifetime. And what we know is
there’s a great plasticity. And so it’s not just that
we’re teaching people subjects. We’re trying to instill in the
fundamental habits of the mind that will serve them forever. And the interesting thing
for us was that we learned that neural scientists,
educational specialists, psychologists, were all
getting more and more subtle and effective in distinguishing
the habits of the mind that you can both study
and impart to students. So we began looking at this. Now let me just read
you something from an extremely nerdy paper
that tried to look at the role of arts and neural physiology. And in this paper an Italian
Journal of Neuron Science, the authors write,
nonetheless, an overall view of the finding suggestions that
the, that the ascetic experience of visual artworks is
characterized by the activation of colon sensor motor areas,
core emotional centers, and reward related centers. In the present review we
discussed the functional relevance of these
activations and propose that ascetic experience is a
multi level process exceeding a purely visual analysis
of artworks and relying upon viscera motor and stomata motor
resonance in the beholder. Arts is so wonderful and so
complex and so deeply human that it’s forcing science
to rethink its own language. We’re now trying to understand
how it is that the arts does so many things at once. In other words there are
many, many parts of the brain that have been so well defined
now and arts seems to go in and barrage many different
parts of it at the same time. One of the habits of
the mind that we talk about is creating
imaging innovation. And so if you, this was part
of the performance that was, was done at the inauguration
and it was just stunning. It was incredibly sensual. It was beautifully artistic. It was unbelievable athletic. And all I remember from
it, I don’t remember any of the particular moves, but I
remember the emotion of being in that audience when
they were doing this. And I then went and
talked to the young people who were part of the dance. And I said how did
you come up with this? They said well we did it. I said were you all dancers? And well you know one
was a lacrosse player, another one was a
football player, another one was a
diver, a swimmer. They had all come to this
and they were telling me that this was causing their own
view of themselves and the world to change dramatically after
having been involved in sports. So there’s something very
different about dance. And I’ll talk more
about that in a bit. Persisting. Persisting is probably the
most important of the habits of the mind that
we need to teach. This is based on tons of
evidence now that is evident in books that are entitled
talent is over rated. The notion that in order to achieve mastery you need
10000 hours of practice. And of course Malcolm Gladwell’s
very popular book Outliers shows that or argues that you
know Bill Gates and Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems
were successful because they had 10000 hours at the computer before
they started their company. The Beatles had 10000
hours of practice in Hamburg before they
really made it big in the United States
and elsewhere. And I now believe that. I’ve looked at the
evidence carefully and it has changed
fundamentally the way I think about my, about my two sons. I used to say well try something
and after about 15 minutes if they didn’t have talent
in it I would let them stop. Or I would tell them to stop. But that’s not the right way. So the persistence I would argue
and the neural scientists seem to argue is learned more
effectively in the arts than almost anything else. That the persistence that one
learns from playing the piano for example seems to have impact on children’s ability
to handle conflict. Wow. Questioning
and posing problems. I just want to, I’ll
show you this picture. This is one of our
design classes. And right there in
the front in the red, in the red vest is Peter
Williamson Class of 2012. The number one golfer in the Ivy
League a year ago, from Hanover and he is in that
class because he wants to be a professional golfer
and then design golf courses. But the way he talks
to me after this class about designing golf courses is
unlike anything I’ve ever heard. It’s, it’s at a level of depth
and a level of understanding of both the natural environment
and what natural spaces do to people’s minds
that’s really stunning. So questioning and posing
problems is another habit of the mind. And for Peter Williamson
who all his life wanted to be a professional
golfer, Dartmouth’s class in design has changed
in a dramatic way. And this is from conversations
last year and this year after he took that class. At the Harvard Graduate School of Education they’ve
been conducting studies, part on art in the classroom. And they have took, taken
the habits of the mind and spun them a little
bit differently. These are the specific
habits of the mind that they think the arts
create in young people. Developing craft, engaging
in persisting, envisioning, expressing, observing. These are really,
really important. Moreover, James Cataroll’s
analysis of the Department of Education’s data demonstrate
that and I quote here, students with high levels of arts participation
outperform arts poor students by virtually every measure. In accounting of socioeconomic
status, a closer look showed that high arts participation
makes a more significant difference to students
from low income backgrounds than for high income students. They also found clear evidence
that sustained involvement in particular art forms, music and theater are highly
correlated with success in mathematics and reading. You know there’s very, very
interesting set of works that I’ve just become
familiar with. There’s a book that many of you may know called This
Is Your Brain On Music. And this is another book by a
neuroscientist who was trying to understand the role of
music in neural development. He looked at tamper, pitch,
rhythm, harmony and tied them to neuroanatomy, neurochemistry, cognitive psychology
and evolution. And most importantly he
challenged Steven Pinker, a former colleague
of mine at Harvard. Steven Pinker’s notion
that music is a sort of auditory cheesecake. That was his term. And that it was an incidental
byproduct of evolution. But you know the author of This
Is Your Brain On Music argued that music served
as an indicator of cognitive emotional
and physical health. And with evolutionary
advantageous as a force that lead to social bonding
and increased fitness. And he cited the arguments of
people like Charles Darwin, Jeffery Miller and others. Dance. One of our own students
who received her PhD here at Dartmouth in 2008 Emily
Cross was in the dance ensemble and she used fellow dancers
for functional MRI studies on learning and memory. And she found that
learning to dance by effective observation
is closely related to learning by physical
practice. Both in the level of achievement and also the neural
sub straights that support the
organization of complex actions. Effective observational learning
may transfer to other skills. In other words, when they
do studies where they try to teach people how to dance,
the exercise of watching a dance and then trying to do it
actually improves one’s ability to learn by observation. So again we don’t need any
of these justifications but boy isn’t this interesting? [ Laughter ] There was a, there was a series
of papers that were a result of a meeting that was led by one of our former faculty
members Mike Gazanaga. And they looked at
the differences in the functional
MRI neurophysiology of artists and non artists. And here is what the
results, the overall results of that meeting came to. An interest in a
performing art leads to a high state of motivation. So it changes your motivation. That produces the
sustained attention necessary to improve performance and the
training of attention that leads to improvement in other
domains of cognition. For six year olds sustained
practice in the arts led to as I said, in six year olds,
better conflict resolution. There are specific links between
high levels of music training and the ability to
manipulate information in both working in
long term memory. In children there are specific
links between the practice of music and skills in
geometrical representation. Correlations exist
between music training in both reading acquisition
and sequence learning. Training in acting appears
to lead to memory improvement through the learning
of general skills from manipulating
semantic information. You know we have a
requirement here at Dartmouth but it’s a requirement
that you can fulfill by taking a studio
art course or just by taking an art history course. These are all, this
is important. But the question for me now is that given all this
information do we have to change our requirements? Do we have to change
our requirements so that people actually engage
in performance, in learning how to dance, in something
like that? Because of the benefit
for neural formation. 18 to 22 is a time when they are
still very, very active neural, we’re making very
important neural connections. But this evidence and the, my
recent exposure to it has led me to rethink, well what, so how
would we reshape our curriculum in a way that would
take advantage of the extraordinary benefit
directly to students of exposure to participation in the arts? You know this is one, a scene from a recent production
here, the Echoes of War. And we have just given
a, an honorary degree to James Knockedway
from the class of 1970 who’s photography
has actually led to changes in policy that I am
directly aware of. These are multi drug resistant
tuberculosis patients. Patients who, whom I’ve
taken care of myself. This is in a particular place
in South Africa, [foreign name] where they had one of
the worst outbreaks of this disease in
recorded history. So I, in addition to the
neurological benefit, the importance of the arts for the revolutionary
purpose is even stronger. So when Haiti happened,
when the, when the earthquake happened, it
was an incredibly difficult time for me because I just left
Boston and my daily work with the, with the,
with Partners in Health. And I really thought
that I was going to have to sit this one out. I was going to have to
just watch the response and not doing anything. But among the things
that the students did, first of all the students
raised more than 250000 dollars, which was about 5 times
more than any other college or university in the country. Our alum stepped up and donated
close to 5 million dollars for the relief effort. Our students did such a great
job that other students from all over the country were calling to see how they organized
themselves. But they also had a concert. And felt that this
was one of the ways that Dartmouth College was going to make its own moral
position felt. As you know we’re
building a new art center. It’s very, very important
for us. And even more important in that
I think you know others will talk to you more about that,
but here’s my perspective on it. As I was, soon after I was
named President in March of last year, we
had this question. In the face of this economic
crisis do we go forward with the Visual Art Center. And at that time I was
just becoming familiar, you know in preparation
for the job of President I had been
reading some of this literature. And so we decided to go ahead
despite the economic situation and also despite what we thought
would be criticism from parts of the community and certainly
parts of the staff and faculty for doing this when
we were making cuts in so many other areas. But we are so glad we did this. And the, the commitment to the Visual Art Center despite
these economic problems is a sign of our own commitment
to the arts. But let me just end by
saying look we do the arts because they’re just
joyous and fun. This was my one performance this
year on this, on this stage. I did a cameo in, in
a Michael Jackson, in a Michael Jackson medley. And I have to tell you I’ve
gotten more positive feedback from this than anything
I’ve done all year. [ Laughter ] So the arts are joyous,
they’re important, they’re part of human
physiology. They take us back to the
origins of human civilizations. Moreover the scientific
evidence that participation in the arts is good for your
brain is now overwhelming. So it’s quite clear to me, the
conclusion from all of this is that you know as a simple
minded physician with no talent in the arts, the only
thing I can possibly do is to prescribe more
arts for everybody, especially our students. Thank you.

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