Creativity and education

What does your cell phone ring tone say about who you are? I’ve heard old fashion telephone rings, an “ACDC” riff, tinkle bells, “Pink Panther,” Clint Eastwood’s “Good the Bad and the Ugly.” I have the tone that came with the phone – partially because I’m used to it and partially because I don’t know how to change it.

I think ringtones expose something in your personality. It’s like the type of music you like. If you like the Rolling Stones, you’re probably at least middle age, not acting your age and have some hippy still hanging out in the back of your mind. Maybe you still go to a concert with a sea of white heads.

If you like heavy metal, you probably have parents that once listened to a lot of ACDC, and may have an ACDC ringtone on their phone.

If the “Pink Panther” blares from your pocket whenever your phone rings, you could be a loner of sorts, or like independence.

Tinkle bells, well let’s not go there, but the old telephone ring would have to denote a nostalgic person. Someone who enjoyed the past or has a certain knowledge of the past.

In education what type of curriculum means success? What method of teaching is the most effective? How can we improve? We study how our successes will affect our students in five years. What about 20 years. And not some vague nebulous type of where will we be then, but studying how students learn or study in our schools today will give then exactly what they will need to succeed and be happy in life.

There are people way smarter than I that have studied the issue and have come up with some of the same conclusions.

“Because it’s [education] one of those things that goes deep with people, like religion, and money and other things, we have a huge vested interest in it,” according to author/educator expert Sir Ken Robinson. “This is partly because it’s education that’s meant to take us into a future that we can’t grasp. If you think of it, children starting school this year will be retiring in 2072. Nobody has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time. And yet we’re meant to be educating them for it. So the unpredictability, I think, is extraordinary.”

Sir Robinson challenges the way we’re educating our children. He thinks that without art and an exploration of what’s important to the student there is no guarantee of their success in their education or life.

“Nobody has a clue -- despite all the expertise that’s been on parade for the past four days – what the world will look like in five years’ time. And yet we’re meant to be educating them for it. So the unpredictability, I think, is extraordinary,” Robinson said during a recent lecture.

Kids have really extraordinary capacities for innovation. My contention is, all kids have tremendous talent. And we squander that talent, pretty ruthlessly. Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it the same.

Interestingly we treat the arts as the last elective. The first classes to be cut, while they are arguably the most important at least for a lot of students, many students need a different track that is often offered. Do we expect them to hide their creativity in exchange for something that, for them, puzzles them and causes parents and teachers to wonder, what’s wrong with this kid?

Maybe it’s not the kid, maybe it’s us closing off our understanding of creativity. You know the older we get the less creative we become. That’s why we need to allow students some room to find themselves and what activity makes them most happy.

There’s a story about a six year old sitting in the back of her class. Robinson tells the story, “She was drawing, and the teacher said this little girl hardly ever paid attention, and in this drawing lesson she did. The teacher was fascinated and she went over to her and she said, “What are you drawing?” And the girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” And the teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” And the girl said, “They will in a minute.”

Fine arts, performance arts, literary arts, and a number subsets of these arts’ can do for a student what can’t be taught in other classes.

The “National Art Education Association” put together ten ideas that are the results of art education:

The arts teach children to make good judgments about relationships; That it’s judgment rather than rules that prevail; The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer; The arts celebrate multiple perspectives; The arts teach children that in complex forms of problem solving; The arts make vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know. They teach students that small differences can have large effects; Art operates in subtleties as the arts teach students to think through and within a material; All art forms employ some means through which images become real; The arts help children learn to say what cannot be said. The arts enable us to have experience we can have from no other source and through such experience to discover the range and variety of what we are capable of feeling and the arts’ position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the young what adults believe is important.

Without creative people, we would never have a “Pink Panther” ringtone.

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