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Everything is a Crisis

The Creativity Crisis: Why American Schools Need Design – The Atlantic.

Did you know there is another educational crisis looming on the horizon? Not only are we behind in math and science, but we lack creativity as well. I think this article raises a great point, but fails to identify the root of the problem.

First of all, I do not believe we are not in a “creativity crisis.” Creativity is a natural human resource. What we have created are systems of education and professional training that do not allow or cultivate creative expression. It may seem like there is no creativity, but it is there, we just have to tap into it. Also, we have to stop adopting the deficit model for every single educational initiative. Maybe it is not that students lack these qualities, but that they lack opportunities to express them.

For example, this article referenced the frustration of some Stanford engineering, architecture, and design professors who, “realized that their best students had never taken apart a bicycle or built a model airplane.” It is not the students’ fault that they are in this position. It is the failure of our leaders and “reformers” to consider the consequences of a standards and assessment based educational system. Why does it take 12+ years to figure out that the education that was meant to prepare you for “any opportunity” is actually limiting your abilities and career potential?

What is being done? The article highlights one effort, led by RISD’s president, to change STEM into STEAM (A for the arts) presumably in line with Ralph Raimi’s suggestion that, “the first purpose of educational reform is to change the climate in the hierarchy of education so that our descendants will be able to advance a ‘true cause.'”

But I don’t think this is the answer. Adding an A to alter the hierarchy is not going to solve the crisis, because there is no crisis.

“The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn’t need to be reformed-it needs to be transformed. The key to transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.” Sir Ken Robinson

The resources are there in our students, maybe it is our job to think more creatively about the educational process.

Just thinking….

  1. Nattie
    May 15, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Perhaps educators should study the history of science for ideas on creativity. They will discover that many of the great creative “minds” were (1)artists who put their concepts and ideas on paper as artistic representations and (2)builders/craftsmen who designed, built and modified their own apparatus. Prior to the 20th century, scientific notebooks, journals and literature contained the scientists’ own drawings of phenomena and blueprints for experimental equipment. These reflected a both a high level of visual thinking about abstract phenomena and innovative but practical use of materials and objects.

    Art was not a separate subject of study as it is in today’s schools, it was an essential way of seeing, processing and depicting the world in a drop of water (microscopy). “Shop” was not a course for the slow readers, most experimentalists required manual building skills. The current approach to scientific instruction forces students to think and rely almost entirely on words and numbers (formulas). It presents “pictures” and prefabricated labs to go with the words and numbers, but it does not encourage or allow students to create and test their own. In short, current methods of instruction leave very little to the imagination and discourage the natural impulse to build one’s own adventure. We forget that unless required to think for itself, the mind is lazy and the spirit complacent.

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