Last week I introduced my view that education needs to involve a more creative environment. Here are the benefits of involving such creativity.
“Most children think they’re highly creative; most adults think they’re not.” (Robinson, 1)
Children are inherently creative. They live in a world of imagination. There are very few walls that confine them and hold them captive. They solve problems through experimentation and exploration. They imagine things that are not really there to create an environment that suits their desires and fulfills their greatest fantasies. Often we would refer to these things as childish and simple-minded, but as we have seen more and more these are the very ideals that move our world forward and create solutions to the world’s greatest problems.
As individuals, we need creativity to help make life beautiful. In his article, Creativity and Education, Physicist David Peat conveys that, “When creativity is blocked the mind becomes terribly frustrated. It may become angry, violent and destructive. Or it may become dull, mechanical, depressed. Is our whole society suffering from a creativity that is frustrated?” (Peat, 83) By continuing to be creative we are not only benefiting the world that we live in but our own selves with a free mind and process of thought. Peat continues, “I would suggest that creativity is a mind that is fresh, alert, sensitive. It is a mind that is not dull, mechanical, afraid, restricted. Creativity is an energy which moves through the whole body. Creativity can simply be seeing each day as new and fresh and full of potential. Creativity can exist in relationships, in the way we see nature, in the way we conduct our lives.” (Peat, 84) In being creative we are not required to be the next Alexander Graham Bell or Thomas Edison. We just need to do small new things to keep our creative juices flowing. Our children need this. We become stagnant if we do the same thing the same way every time.
Recently we have seen the need for creative individuals. Google, or their parent company Alphabet, has established an entire company based off of this premise. They call it Google X, or The Moonshot Factory. Their “mission is to invent and launch ‘moonshot’ technologies that we hope could someday make the world a radically better place. We have a long way to go before we can fulfill this mission, so today it’s really an ambition.” (Google) Here, Google X is working with some of the most creative minds to work through failures and find new ways to solve the world’s foremost problems.
Even though a few companies are trying to change the trend there is still a large portion of corporations that impede creativity. As John Taylor Gatto points out in his work, An Underground History of American Education, “Our economy has no adequate outlet of expression for its artists, dancers, poets, painters, farmers, filmmakers, wildcat business people, handcraft workers, whiskey makers, intellectuals, or a thousand other useful human enterprises—no outlet except corporate work or fringe slots on the periphery of things. Unless you do “creative” work the company way, you run afoul of a host of laws and regulations put on the books to control the dangerous products of imagination which can never be safely tolerated by a centralized command system.” (Gatto, 519) Within this framework of the “traditional” corporate and industrial world, we see a narrow-minded approach to creativity. We have impeded progress by containing the true creatives to a series of analytical and bureaucratic philosophies that control how far someone is to go with their own individual ideas. We need more people to think and act like the labs of Google X and others.
In the September to October 1998 Harvard Business Review, Professor Teresa Amabile shares her thoughts on creativity in the corporate environment. Her ideas can certainly translate over to educational institutions as well. We see that “creativity is undermined unintentionally every day in work environments that were established—for entirely good reasons—to maximize business imperatives such as coordination, productivity, and control.” (Amabile) In the light of our educational models, we see that student creativity gives way to simplified processes and curriculums. Our children must give way to the need for efficiency, not their long-term progress and experimentation. She continues by stating that, “Creativity can benefit every function of an organization…Expertise and creative thinking are an individual’s raw materials—his or her natural resources, if you will. But a third factor—motivation—determines what people will actually do…But passion and interest—a person’s internal desire to do something—are what intrinsic motivation is all about.” (Amabile) Here, we see that individuals that are allowed to be creative are more likely to be passionately attracted to their work. They will be able to find more creative ways to solve problems.
By disregarding the creative passions of our students we are robbing them of future opportunities and abilities. They need to maintain a flexibility of thought to thrive in a new world that lies at our doorsteps. In his book, Getting It Wrong From The Beginning, Kieran Egan shares the power of this flexibility through the powerful cognitive function of children. “One area of children’s cognition that seems clearly superior to adults’ has been investigated. Metaphor, which ‘is at the root of the creativity and openness of language’ seems much more readily generated and recognized by the average five-year-old than by the average adult. Metaphor is important in all flexibility of thinking, not because it is a way of seeing similarities among different things, but because it ‘creates a similarity [rather] than…formulates some similarity antecedently existing’. Metaphor generation seems to go into decline with the onset of schooling and literacy.” (Egan, 93) By locking our children into an analytical environment of procedures they are gradually losing this free ability to think metaphorically and thus struggle to have the mental flexibility needed to be creative.
To be continued…
Egan, Kieran. Getting It Wrong From The Beginning: Our Progressivist Inheritance from Herbert Spencer, John Dewey, and Jean Piaget. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2002
Peat, David. Creativity and Education, Eruditio e-Journal of the World Academy of Art and Science, Volume 1, Issue 4, Mar-Apr 2014; http://eruditio.worldacademy.org/files/Issue-4/Reprints/Creativity-and-Education-D.PeatEruditio-Issue4-Reprint.pdf
Robinson, Ken. Out of Our Minds; Learning to be Creative. United Kingdom: Capstone Publishing, 2001)
Amabile, Teresa. How to Kill Creativity, Harvard Business Review September-October 1998. https://hbr.org/1998/09/how-to-kill-creativity