I love the double entendre in this title, because this post is about teaching creativity to our students (or perhaps more accurately encouraging rather than inhibiting it) but also about encouraging (rather than inhibiting) the creativity of our teachers.
Two of the most retweeted links on my social media feeds this week concerned creativity and critical thinking and how our current model of education (and teacher assessment not to mention teacher professional development) inhibits rather than encourages these essential traits.
The first note comes from Sir Ken Robinson via Mindshift. He writes in “Creativity Is In Everything, Especially Teaching” that creativity is present (or should be) in all aspects of life – not just the so-called creative arts. He argues that creativity can be cultivated and refined. The piece also discusses many myths about creativity and explains that creativity can be very hard work that requires “an increasing mastery of skills, knowledge, and ideas.” Robinson notes that, in fact, creativity requires something we usually associate with the sciences: refining, testing and experimenting.
James Thilman of The Huffington Post continues this conversation in his discussion of an important documentary about education. In “‘Most Likely To Succeed’: Schools Should Teach Kids To Think, Not Memorize,” Thilman describes the documentary “Most Likely To Succeed” and argues that the message of the film is one that all Americans desperately need to hear: “our schools are failing our children, leaving them unable to think critically and contribute to an innovation economy.” I agree with the film but contend that it is the focus of politicians and outside influences on a testing culture that has undermined schools’ ability to foster innovation and creativity. I believe we have created an educational culture in this country that stifles creativity – in administrators, teachers, and students. Similarly, I love the concept of the “model” school showcased in the documentary, but my concern is always that charter schools are not necessarily a good model for the mass education system we must offer.
I’ve been struggling for some time to try to understand why our nation is so obsessed with testing and numbers and why so many are willing to sacrifice the arts, languages, and even play to the testing machine. Why don’t we trust our teachers to teach creatively and why don’t we trust our students to learn creatively? Why don’t we trust our administrators to run schools where teaching creativity is the norm not the exception? The only answer I can come up with is Puritanism. Matthew Hutson argues in “Still Puritan After All These Years” that Puritanism effects our thinking and prejudices on a number of levels. I find it both interesting and discouraging that a country which prides itself on innovation and invention is still so rigid in its thinking.
I was born and raised a Protestant in Upstate New York and currently live in the Bible belt, but I believe in the powerful magic we can create in our classrooms and our homes and our worlds if we only read and write and think and talk. I believe both arts and play (and the wonderful ways they overlap and combine to create something exponentially more) can help us solve problems and thrive so I leave you with my blog post that offers one suggestion: “Important Conversations Inspired By Comics.” This is also why I chose the image above to represent this conversation, because we each have unique contributions to make to improve our world – but we need to give everyone the opportunity to do so.