Creative Means Successful
“The roots of a creative society are in basic education. The sheer volume of facts to be digested by the students of today leaves little time for a deeper interrogation of their moral worth. The result has been a generation of technicians rather than visionaries, each one taking a career rather than an idea seriously. The answer must be reform in our educational methods so that students are encouraged to ask about “know-why” as well as “know-how”. Once the arts are restored to a more central role in educational institutions, there could be a tremendous unleashing of creative energy in other disciplines too”- Michael D Higgins, the former Irish Minister for Arts, Culture, and Gaeltacht
In our modern day and age, creativity and the ability to be innovative are the roots of our culture. It promotes social growth and therefore requires a generation of people who can think critically. Creativity is a very broad word that can be defined in many ways. Creativity to me is “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination” (Define). A successful person is one that has the capacity to freely think outside the box, come up with multiple ways to solve a problem, have the aptitude to effectively communicate with a person of any personality type, and to come up with original ideas. Our current education system in the United States does not teach our youth how to do this. “Only five percent of classroom time is used to reinforce students’ creative response (on average)” (Sharon). We need to foster these creative ideas in our education system and move away from the orthodox and conventional methods of educating the youth.
Teachers are one of the most important factors in a student’s childhood. They are the children’s role models and are also their main source of information besides their parents. That being said, it is essential that teachers encourage creativity in the classroom. The first step to teaching for creativity is to establish a non-threatening atmosphere where children can explore original ideas. Teachers should not negatively criticize their students’ work if it is wrong. Instead, they would supply productive comments of how they can make their work better the next time around instead of merely assigning a letter grade with no comments. This fosters creativity because we can actually learn more by making mistakes. This creates a non-threatening environment because students realize that mistakes are an acceptable part of learning, it also encourages positive risk taking. When I was a freshman in high school at Champlain Valley Union in Hinesburg Vermont, we were required to take a creative writing class. After doing some research I discovered that a majority of high schools around the country were not fortunate enough to get the opportunity to take such a course. On the first day of class my teacher came in with a bumper sticker that said, “question authority”. At the time I had no idea what the statement meant or why she showed it to us, but now I see there is great importance in that assertion. It isn’t just about a little piece of sticker that is put on the bumper of a car for laughs; there is actually a deeper meaning behind the phrase. This principle encourages creativity and for students to think for themselves. This concept should be taught at an early age. A creative child is someone who should ask the questions; “why is what you’re telling me true?” and “what if?” Children need to learn how to make decisions one their own. Parents and teachers can give them advice, but eventually they need to make choices without parental input. I am proposing that we should “question authority” not necessarily “challenge it”. Although occasionally the questions we ask may lead to challenges to what has been previously accepted. (Thus, one of the reasons for our Supreme Court!). This “question authority” concept could make teachers nervous because occasionally they might not even know whether or not the information their teaching is true. This supports my point as previously stated, teachers are the role models of the young students. If the teacher isn’t creative than how can we expect the children to be?
“Creativity itself cannot be taught but that its components can be enhanced and encouraged” (Morgan). One way that teachers can encourage creativity is by promoting communication and listening activities. The ability to communicate new ideas is very important; it is a skill that will be used for the rest of the student’s life. Class discussions and small group work should be highly encouraged. “When students listen effectively they generate questions to further everybody's thinking and learning” (Communication). When students listen and share ideas with each other, they hear and learn concepts from different points of view. This might get them thinking about ideas and solutions that they never thought existed. When conducting communication activities teachers should assign problems and topics that are open-ended and don’t necessarily have just one clean-cut solution. This helps ensure that children with different learning methods (i.e. analytical, technical, etc.) can all come up with a credible solution. These types of problems boost creativity, confidence, and the ability to take positive risks.
There are many activities that can be used to boost creative and innovative thinking. In my creative writing class we had multiple assignments were we had to write stories from different points of view. No, I don’t mean different people points of view; we had to write from the point of view of inanimate objects. I specifically remember writing stories from the point of view of a refrigerator and a spider. I described the things that they would feel, hear, taste, smell, and say. These “role-playing” activities make students think outside the box and to use their imagination to create a completely fictional story. Another activity that improves creative imagination in young children is where you have a bag of mysterious object and ask them to each pick one. Inside the bag you have objects that are unfamiliar to them. When they pick the object ask them to try to identify it and see if they know what it was made for or some of its uses. “This activity encourages children to develop ideas that are original and have a purpose, which is to improve or add value to something” (Fisher).
On January 23, 2001, President Bush passed the No Child Left Behind Act. This was “an act to close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that no child is left behind” (FAPE). This act authorized the states to create assessments for measuring student’s individual skill level. If a specific school does not do well enough on the standardized test, then they do not receive Federal funds. This was intended to ensure that all students received equal and quality education. Research suggests that NCLB did the exact opposite. The creation of the tests demanded that teachers “teach to the test”; meaning that instructors only teach “facts” that will be on the test rather than teaching how to think freely. This is pushing creativity out of the classroom because teachers aren’t allowed to use their own unique teaching abilities. Creativity got a bad connotation because many people assume that creative learning is equal to fun and games. This is not the case. The problem with NCLB is that schools that perform poorly are unable to receive funding, and therefore don’t have the resources to ultimately improve themselves. This process is commonly referred to as the never-ending cycle of poverty.
Some may argue that we should stick with the conventional methods of education that have been around for years. Although I agree that traditional methods of education are important, we should allot more time for activities and classes that stimulate creativity in children. Some subjects such as math and the sciences may not be as acceptable to the purely creative system of learning. Science and math cannot be taught completely with creativity, there are fundamentals that need to be learned first. Then instructors need to be sure to add in the creative teaching techniques after the basics are acquired. In these situations teachers can teach to account for all of the learning methods listed previously (analytical, technical, etc.). For example, some activities can be taught lecture style and some can be taught with hands on activities. This ensures that students are well balanced and are open-minded to the different styles of education.
Our culture is drastically changing from year to year. Twenty years ago we couldn’t even imagine the technology that is available to all of us today. Sheryl Faber, a Minnesota State graduate that has half a dozen articles published in popular magazines argues; “Creative mindsets are becoming more and more in demand. Creative employees are sometimes able to see options and solutions where others can't, often saving companies large sums of money and creating jobs” (Faber). These types of children will have more opportunities in life. As Michael D. Higgins explains, we are creating a generation of “technicians” rather than “visionaries”. The whole point of school is to give students the education they need to get a job. If employers want visionaries and we are giving them technicians, we aren’t preparing our children properly. Creative children will be able to keep up with the new technology and use their open minds to create solutions to problems that others in the past only dreamed about. It has been said that we should “be smart, and raise your children to be smarter”(Should). I completely agree with this statement because our lives are becoming more and more complex and we need to encourage creative education in the classroom in order to give our youth all of the skills that they will need to be successful later in life.