Friday, January 22, 2010

Growing Out of Creativity

How do educators foster creativity in students? I recently watched a very interesting video of Ken Robinson on the TED website where he challenges our education system to shift dramatically.  What is interesting is that he points out that globally, every education system focuses on the same core content subjects in the same hierarchy.  Maths and languages at the top, trickling down to humanties, and then finally to the arts.  We see this in our individual schools as band and orchestra teachers are being forced to teach study skills classes to supplement their schedule to remain full time.  Our system has shifted to a fierce academic approach, which as Robinson put it quite poignantly, is "a protacted process of university entrance."  He points out that our academic system is over inflated-- with so many people graduating with degrees, degrees do not mean anything anymore, and they are not a guarantee of a job.  The key issue here is that there are many brilliant and intelligent people out there who believe they are not-- because we focus on only a very small set of skills as being valued and desired.  He believes the key to surviving the shift is to rethink our view of intelligence.  We see this beginning in our classrooms, but I think the focus on standardized testing and the push for "academic" success precludes what really needs to be done.

I saw this in action last night in my own home with my daughter.  She registered for her 11th grade classes yesterday, and she was recommended by her teachers for four AP classes.  There would have been a time when I would have thought that was the ultimate compliment-- that it meant she was smart and successful, but over the past few years, I have been able to see how we have diluted the meaning of these classes to be something less than they once were, but with a higher status symbol.  It bothered me that her guidance counselor tried to sway her desire to take oceanography instead of AP Biology because he told she is smart. Rather than nurturing and fostering her interests, he sent the message that it was only important to take the AP classes because "she is smart."  That leads me to the question-- do we believe that oceanographers are less smart than biologists? 

Here it is in action-- what Robinson points out-- that we need to rethink our view of intelligences and not squelch their creativity. He surmises that creativity is in children from the time they are born, they are not afraid to try and fail, and that we educate that out of them in our strict, black and white, right and wrong system.  As educators, we need to begin to shift our thinking in our classrooms to nurture in our children what they are meant to be-- educate their whole being, as Robinson says.

Here is the video-- definitely worth the 20 minutes!

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