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Lead from the Start: February 2009

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Burning Down the House

On TLN and on my friend Bill's blog there has been a heated discussion of the role of creativity in schools. In a strange turn of events, I will support the opposite position for a minute. In our discussion of creativity it is important that we acknowledge the normative function of schooling. I am all for starting all over, burning down the house, and starting again by redefining the purpose and hence the accountability necessary for our schools. However, I think that some of the aspects of schooling that we might change might not be the parts that need to change. Creativity needs to be brought into our expectations, not basics pushed out. There have been numerous researchers who have found that the most effective way to teach at risk kids is to teach the basics and higher level thinking at the same time. Otherwise kids will not be ready to use either by the time they are adults.

I am sort of like the hammer that sees nails all over the place. I see creativity in many places where others don't.

Creativity sometimes substitutes for the word expression. I can see how teachers are fed up with the lack of expression of their humanity in their practice. In many cases it is not why we got into this gig. But, creativity and expression are not the same thing. Creativity is figuring how to get that test answer out of that kid as much as it is helping kids see past that test question.

Creativity is a big word with different meanings for a lot of people, sort of like schooling is different from learning. If all kids had to do was learn then they wouldn't need us, it is the schooling that makes teachers necessary. It is also why our creative expression is sometimes compromised for the sake of the an accountability tool that does not measure creativity. If the purpose of schooling moved past (but included) the basics standards we would probably have plenty of time for creativity, in fact we might be required to teach it 3 hours a day. Then what would we have to complain about?

The big issue seems to me to be that there is a conflict between what schools need to be about, and what they are held accountable for creating. These expectations are almost polar opposites now which can cause a great deal of stress for the people responsible for meeting conflicting expectations. We have a hunch about what kids will need in the future but right now, that doesn't matter. Right now what matters is the test. So we have to teach to both sides of the brain at the same time with out compromising either. It can be done, in fact it has been done in poor schools for years.

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