Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Are Schools Inspiring Creativity?

I would like to think that there are many great qualities that come out of working, learning, and teaching in public schools. Things such as scholarship, academic achievements, academic discipline, research, rigor, and intellectual capacity are but a few. But, what of the area of creativity?

Sure, we have special subjects such as art, music, technology, etc, but they are not so creative as following the work of someone else and attempting to make intellectual sense from it. In fact, few activities in a school, with the exception of the inspired teaching of the chosen few, make the grade in offering children a chance to sprout creative wings.

Public schools, for all of their other issues, follow 19th Century, assembly-line, factory-driven instructional formats. It's the "one size fits all" paradigm, where each student is compartmentalized into a smorgasbord of classes, each and every day throughout a child's education. Given the added demands of state and local assessments to prove children may be learning something,and teachers are teaching something, the opportunity to foster creativity, exploration, and manipulation in a child's environment are quite limited, if they exist at all.

We need a renewed dedication to finding the time, the resources, and the challenges to inspire creativity in our students, as well as our faculties. In the April 25, 2012 NYTimes, columnist David Brooks does an excellent piece on this idea. He writes:
"The Creative Monopoly"
"Think about the traits that creative people possess. Creative people don’t follow the crowds; they seek out the blank spots on the map. Creative people wander through faraway and forgotten traditions and then integrate marginal perspectives back to the mainstream. Instead of being fastest around the tracks everybody knows, creative people move adaptively through wildernesses nobody knows."

Just imagine the curricular opportunities that would abound if a segment of each week was dedicated to student creative research projects. Students pursuing their own interests in a discerning and creative manner, mentored by their teachers, not dominated by them. Allowing them a chance to sprout their creative wings to reach for the stars. For as Mr. Brooks asserts: "We live in a culture that nurtures competitive skills. And they are necessary: discipline, rigor and reliability. But it’s probably a good idea to try to supplement them with the skills of the creative monopolist: alertness, independence and the ability to reclaim forgotten traditions."

After all, a culture that fails to inspire imagination will be a forgotten remnant of it's existence.