The five year old proudly brings his drawing to his Kindergarten Teacher. He says “Look, I drew a purple flower!” The teacher looks it over and smiles at him. “Johnny, what a wonderful purple flower! Draw more purple flowers for me!” And he proceeds to shower her with purple flowers for days to come.
10 years later that same Johnny offers up a drawing a purple flower to his teacher. Hmm, would this teacher as likely shower him with praise and encourage him to create more for him?
In the next period, the history teacher drones on about the Civil War. Johnny raises his hand and asks, “What if the South had won the Civil War? Would we have slavery today?” The teacher watches the clock, might even like the question. Maybe she wishes that SHE had asked that question and possibly considered it in her lesson preparation. But since she felt that the question would steer her time into uncharted waters she dropped it. Instead she says to Johnny, “Interesting point but we know that the North won the Civil War don’t we? So let’s stick to the actual content.”
It’s 10 years later, the latest Mid East crisis has resulted in widespread destruction of the Saudi oil fields. The world’s economy, ill prepared for this event, grinds to a halt. Social unrest, violence, and disruption plagues all governments. The President convenes her cabinet and asks “Can we create a solution to this?”
In all of the cases above the critical variable is creativity, more specifically, creative problem solving. That is, the ability to weld right brain creative skills and properties with left brain logic and convergent thinking to synthesize what we are considering, re-work it perhaps, to come up with new, original approaches to our literacies and competencies.
The P21 framework recognizes the need for reorganizing schools’ curricula to include the expectation that students will practice and master creative problem solving.
I’d argue that if there ever were a time when we need our learners to be proficient creative problem solvers it is now. Economic downtimes, social and political upheaval, accelerating technological change, demographic trends all combine to suggest an uncertain future and perhaps an UNpreferred future for us all unless we collaborate to recreate our now for a positive and preferred futures set for twenty first century citizens world wide.
A counter argument is that creativity can not be taught. Rather, they say, it is a skills set or attribute that is the peculiar property of a sub set of our population. On surface that may seem true. Certainly some people are more creative than others.
I’d posit that those folks well -known or known only to you, may appear more creative than others you know because for one reason or another they either took or were afforded the opportunities to practice creativity.
Would that schools would make those same opportunities for students! They don’t as a system though do they? Sure sometimes there are special teachers, or special subject areas that lend themselves more readily or openly to “permitting” creative thought and production. But do school systems, big and small, routinely and consistently require a creativity “strand” that all students must take?
The next several posts will identify and explain how we can do this.