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Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try” – Dr. Seuss We have, as a culture, been developing into a situation deemed the Creativity Crisis, we have dug a hole called short cuts and memorization from which we cannot get out. In recent years, research had shown that children creativity is declining. Reviewing this research, one must wonder, first, what is causing creativity in schools to decline, and, second, what can we, as a country, and I, as a parent/ teacher, do to fix this arising situation. What is creativity and innovation? Do schools kill creativity? How much of what we learn in school is used when we are finished? Creativity has become one of those “viral" words that everyone has an opinion about. Put the word "creativity" into the title of a book and it will probably be best seller. People ask: How can creativity be fostered? Is it possible to give exercises for creativity? A program? A system of education? Is creativity something that can be trained or taught? You can certainly train people to carry out tasks in a better way, acquire new techniques and skills, and to accumulate new knowledge. But the whole essence of creativity lies in its freshness, its freedom, its newness. Creativity is often unexpected and exciting. It involves seeing things in new ways and breaking rules. Creativity may result in something radically different, for example Picasso/ Stravinsky, or it may involve the unfolding of an old, established form with a total freshness such as Bach and the fugue, ok, lets modernize this a little bit, he creative form of mixing 2 or 3 songs in a single track that has become a fav called mashups, free running, up walls, over bridges, the movement focused on overcoming obstacles called Parkour. Obviously there can be no program, no system of training or education for creativity -whatever boundary we draw around it, something else that is totally creative will emerge in a different place. Creativity is not a skill, it is not a sort of muscle of the brain, or a technology of the mind. Creativity makes use of knowledge and skill but that is not where its roots lie. I have always felt that creativity is perfectly natural. We should not ask how to be creative, rather we must question why we are not being creative! Creativity is the essence of life, of evolution, of consciousness, of nature and of matter. The universe itself is in a constant act of creation so, as its children, we should ask ourselves--Why, in such a creative universe, do societies and some individuals at times appear to be stupid, dull, destructive and uncreative?--Or are we deceived? Are people really dull--or is their creativity simply being nummed in other ways? Are we all, in fact, creative? Do we all have the potential for creativity no matter how old we are? I bought an iPad for my 2 year old daughter after seeing how fast she was finishing her puzzles and stopped putting them in place but instead stacking them together and inviting me over for tea and “puzzle pieces cake”. Downloaded a few apps for toddlers, puzzles, games and so on and so forth. Soon she discovered the motion detection and the infinite world of possibilities we were finding out together. Just as motivated and engaged she got when I brought home an empty large refrigerator box, that had, as the ipad, infinite world of possibilities we were finding out together, from “the bear cave” to “the sinking boat” to the place where I would find her books, dolls and cookies.
The whole essence of the infant is creativity. Leaning to walk, leaning to talk, word games, songs, play. Imagine creating a world of your imagination and playing with it for hours on end. Scientist I have talked to say that creating a theory is just like that, it is a play of ideas within the mind. Playing with mud, your food, with fabrics, with paints, this is totally natural to the child and something that Picasso could do this all his life. Dressing up, playing jokes, story making, it's all an immense energy of the mind. It is hard to stop creativity in a young child. Creativity is an energy that constantly bubbles out of a child. You can't make your child creative, it simply is creative. The most difficult thing in the world is to get out of the way and let this creativity happen. What has happened then? Why does the world become so dull for some of us? Punishment and cruelty are obvious answers. And the low value that adults put on play and the high value they put on learning, knowledge, technique, seriousness and making a living. From personal experience when I was 14 I told my legal guardians I wanted to be an actor, they answered if it was for school, how much time will I use for it and how much will it cost. After clarifying that I wanted to be an actor and make films for a living, they quickly discouraged the idea with endless facts and stories of failure. So I went into the profitable studies of computer science, which I failed completely in my first semester of university and was forced to quit dance, art and the theater club or I would have to pay my own tuition. In a TED talk from february 2006 with over 50million views in Vimeo, YouTube and TED, Sir Ken Robinson clearly states: “schools kill creativity,”(1) which it was basically the groundwork for my question on this debate. In his speech he mentions two very true and fundamental points: “The hierarchy is rooted on two ideas: Number one, that the most useful subjects for work are at the top. So you were probably steered benignly away from things at school when you were a kid, things you liked, on the grounds that you would never get a job doing that. Is that right? Don’t do music, you’re not going to be a musician; don’t do art, you’re not going to be an artist. Benign advice — now, profoundly mistaken. The whole world is engulfed in a revolution. And the second is, academic ability, which has really come to dominate our view of intelligence because the universities designed the system in their image. If you think of it, the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized. And I think we can’t afford to go on that way.” (1)
As adults we have internalized authority; we have roles, models, values that are not our own, goals that are placed upon us. All this can destroy creativity. The deadline, the writer's block, the need to pay bills, the program's goals - all can kill. By contrast, creativity is unconditioned, it is its own reward. But external goals, rules, etc. that become internalized can destroy creativity and cripple the mind. I'd like to even call it an "undetectable brain damage" which is the result of pain, anger and frustration which all conspire to destroy the subtle nature of the brain and make it dull and mechanical. When creativity is blocked the mind becomes terribly frustrated. It may become angry, violent and destructive. Or it may become dull, mechanical, depressed. Does it sound familiar? Is our whole
society suffering from a creativity that is frustrated? Are we zombified in front of screens, computers, technology that we no longer even know how to talk to people without a phone in our hands? In advocating creativity and the joy of play I am not advocating anarchy or misbehavior. I do not mean that there are no constraints, no rules, or morals to be placed on a creative person. Creative minds have always become engaged in a dialogue with rules and structures. But these rules are never arbitrary or mechanical, they are established by the medium itself--paint, words, sounds, physical processes, the needs of others, the health of the planet, the fabric of society. Bach chose the limitations of the fugue, Wordsworth wrote sonnets, theoretical physicists must constantly submit their creations to the court of experiment. Creativity is not rebellion, yet it is free and unconditioned in the way it engages of the rules and a particular form and in so doing transforms and enlarges their meaning and significance, while creativity must make use of rules, techniques, skills etc.-- these are not the origin of creativity, they are simply its tools. In Verdidebatt.no, Sverre Avnskog raises a very inportant question: “Norsk skole produserer elever som er faglig middelmådige, og med liten evne til selvdisiplin og fokus. Undervisningen blir ofte forstyrret av uro, og mobbing og trakassering er en del av mange elevers hverdag. Hva har gått galt?”(2) In my attempt to research creativity in norwegian schools, I asked teachers, principles, secretaries with some evasive answers or “kunst og handverk timen” which in my opinion it doesn’t satisfy the creativity of the mind. In regular classes students simple answer questions without often understanding the subject but just by looking for the answer in the book itself or copying, they “just want to be finished with it.” Teachers also have a lot of preasure to complete their curriculum, under time and some try to motivate their classes. But still, like Sverre Avnskog says: “Internasjonale undersøkelser viser at norske elever er ganske middelmådige faglig” and cotinues to mention that: “norsk skole et betydelig disiplinproblem, som viser seg helt opp til høyskolenivå, der man hører om 19-20 åringer har problemer med å sitte stille og høre på en forelesning uten å forstyrre.” (2) My question is, what’s wrong with not sitting quietly, what is wrong with noise? my first teaching class in Norway I made all the students stand up, stretch and have a paper ball fight that with explanation and execution lasted 5 minutes. Minutes that payed for full undivided attention the rest of the time. What is wrong with giving lectures outside of the classroom? Finding games and creative ways to involve hands on students to learn the subject at hand? We ask how can our children/students be more creative? I would suggest that the first step is to allow ourselves to be creative. To allow that energy to bubble up from below. To play. To act in a way that is free and unconditioned and not directed by anything outside itself. The hardest thing is to allow this creativity in ourselves and in others. Can we really stand back and let it happen? Not encourage it, reward it, direct it, structure it, give it goals. Can we simply leave the child/student alone to play, to take things in its own way? Creativity is so important to us that we find we can't leave it alone when we see it in others--we can't allow our children simply to be themselves. And so we must praise, reward, direct and intervene. We all know a better way to do things, an easier path--and all this does is to divert the creative action from its source by introducing something external. It is so easy to "help" the student, to enlarge its world. But if we are all to play we must learn the importance of having the total freedom to be wrong, to
make mistakes, to push something to its limits and then throw it away. (It's said that the test of a really good mathematician is how many bad proofs they produce!) The teacher and the parent must develop courage and creativity. There are no rules, no one can tell us when to step in or when to stand back. In the end, being a parent or a teacher has to be a creative act in its own right. My guru, role model, mentor in all that is methodology in my heart and mind told me on the first day: “A teacher is an actor, lets go put on a play.” The creative parent allows the child that security and solitude in which to explore the universe in a creative way. The most important freedom that the parent or teacher can allow is the freedom to play and to make mistakes. But can we act as creative parents to ourselves? Can we allow ourselves the security and freedom to explore, to create and to make mistakes? Can schools support creative teaching? in 2010 Jens Stoltenberg sier: "Vi må sørge for at flere fullfører videregående opplæring. Så vet jeg med sikkerhet at læreren er av avgjørende betydning. Vi lykkes ikke med våre mål om mer kvalitet om vi ikke lykkes med å styrke utdanningen, heve statusen og få på plass flere lærere og førskolelærere. Derfor satser vi på flere lærere og bedre lærere." (3) I believe it to be a contradiction, when we have students in opposite ends of the learning curve and still advancing. When kids are not allowed to shine but remain all at the same learning level. It was Albert Einsten, the man considered to be the smartest known brain on the planet, who said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world” (4) T.S. Eliot mentions in his opening stanza from choruses from The Rock from 1934: “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” (5) and if I dare quote bible verses, in Exodus 35:31-32 “And he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze...” (6) Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (7) Are we holding back our future generations with mechanical-processive minds? Not accepting the basic human need for expression and expansion of creativity? Finally let us ask: What do we really want to do? What is the most fun for us in life? Do we really want to do what we are doing now? Can we allow ourselves to play? What do we give the most value to in our lives? What is most important to us? Does play or fun in others make us uneasy? Must everything we do have an end or goal? Does the world truly appear fresh and new to us each morning? If we were given one year to live what would we do?
(1) http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html (2) http://www.verdidebatt.no/debatt/cat1/subcat7/thread303751/#post_303751 (3) http://www.abcnyheter.no/borger/100218/3-hovedmal-norsk-skolepolitikk (4) Viereck, George Sylvester (October 26, 1929). "What life means to Einstein: an interview". The Saturday Evening Post. (http://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/wp-content/uploads/satevepost/ what_life_means_to_einstein.pdf) (5) Eliot, T.S. (1934). ROCK: A Pageant Play Written For Performance at Sadler's Wells Theatre 28 May - 9 June 1934 On Behalf of the Forty-Five Churches Fund of theDiocese of London. (http:// www.wisdomportal.com/Technology/TSEliot-TheRock.html)
(6) http://graceandgritforlivinglife.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/creativity-versus-underachievement/ (7) http://fortheking.tv/why-we-create/
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