Creativity and Education: Experts, Philosophers and Philosopher Artists Introduction
In this paper I discuss creativity and education by drawing a contrast between the creativity “expert”, the philosopher and the philosopher-artist. I argue that recognised “experts” on creativity such as Sir Ken Robinson present limited, nihilistic and sometimes incoherent visions of creativity. The first part of the paper provides a “critique” of such visions. To construct such a critique I draw on a fairly “traditional” notion of what philosophy should be about, namely, a commitment to producing robust arguments, weeding out contradictions and uncovering inconsistencies. The figure of the philosopher presented here is not necessarily a “professional philosopher” or “philosopher of education”. I make this point due to an awareness that the experts of whom I speak are unlikely to present or think of themselves as philosophers (though, interestingly, quite often they call themselves “psychologists”). Though I argue that the “philosopher” has much to say to a discussion on creativity and education, her role is limited. At this point, the philosopher artist takes the stage. The philosopher artist is harder to define and her distinguishing characteristics will hopefully emerge as this paper develops.
When I was working at a University in the East of England a number of speakers came in to talk about creativity and education. I attended these sessions not because I had any great interest in creativity, or any particular drive to avoid the study of it, but because I‟d been asked to help put together an undergraduate course called “Creativity and Thinking”. Anyway, I attended these sessions as a “creativity” virgin of sorts. I use scare quotes here because, one would assume that nobody can really be a virgin as regards creativity (without the scare quotes), unless that is one had been shoved into a cupboard immediately after birth and remained there. Though I don‟t want to describe in detail the seminars I attended, I want to say a few things about them. Firstly, they were all delivered by psychologists – in my innocence I was somewhat surprised by this. When the speakers discussed instances of creativity taking place, the examples did not sound like anything I associated with creativity – it would not have occurred to me that building a model using a set of instructions was creative. Apparently it is. Thirdly, I felt that in a couple of cases, the presentations were extremely slick but did not really say very much. Finally, these sessions were far and away the most well attended sessions that I had been present at. It was hard to get a seat. Some members of the audience had brought along books to be autographed. When I moved jobs, colleagues (who knew I had an “interest” in creativity) suggested that I read books by or watched youtube clips (of which there are many) of the eminent creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson. Let me introduce Robinson‟s vision. Society is experiencing the infancy of a technological revolution on a par with the Industrial Revolution – things are moving at such a speed that people are getting left behind:
Throughout the world, companies and organisations are trying to compete in a world of economic and technological change that is moving faster than ever. As the axis shifts towards intellectual labour and services, they urgently need people who are creative, innovative and flexible. Too often they can‟t find them. (Robinson, 2001, p. 1) People need to be creative innovative and flexible if they are not going to get swallowed up in the tsunami. Education is largely to blame for this problem – businesses are forced to put on inadequate training programmes that only touch the...