Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Creativity in Education (and Life) Can Change the World

Some of my best childhood memories are from going to public grade school.  Making friends was hard, but learning was fun.  When I think of school, I think of:
  • Creating a paper mâché Loch Ness monster and painting it red, white and blue to be the USS Nessie.
  • Writing and illustrating stories about my gerbils, Floppsey and Moppsey, and reading them to the class.
  • Writing a report on wolves and taking a picture with a Polaroid of a wolf in a book so it would look like the wolf was in my backyard (:
  • Being the lead in the school play, Really Rose.
  • Reading a chapter of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase dramatically (OK, overly dramatically) into a tape recorder.
  • Working on a 50-page handwritten report (with illustrations) at the end of the school year so I could go on a class field trip to Boston, and visit one of my favorite places, the Mapparium.
  • Receiving my weekly mimeographed schedule of to-dos (homework, meeting days for certain subjects, project due dates etc.), and figuring out how I would get it done on my own time.
We live in a time when we need creativity more than ever to find innovative solutions to the world's problems. Unfortunately, America's creativity scores are declining.   In their July 2010 Newsweek article, The Creativity Crisis, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman reported:
"Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William and Mary discovered this in May, after analyzing almost 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults. Kim found creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward."
Bronson and Merryman also reported that, "A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 'leadership competency' of the future."

One of the reasons I stopped working as the program director for an arts education nonprofit five years ago was because I was so frustrated with the public school system we worked in.  I can't bear to see Waiting for Superman.  My only connection with education at the moment is as a "reading partner" volunteer with two girls for an hour each week at my local public school.  If you know of an effective movement to integrate creativity back into education, I'd love to know about it.

In the meantime, I just signed up for Art Every Day Month, happening in November, after interviewing its founder, Leah Piken Kolidas, for the Arts and Healing Network Podcast.   I figure the least I can do is try to raise my own "creativity scores."  As Gloria Anzaldúa wrote, "I change myself, I change the world." If I had children, I'd sign them up too.

Wish by me (:

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  1. Great post! I whole heartedly agree -- I used to mentor a kid who was in sixth grade and just coming out of homelessness when I met him. He was way behind in all of his classes; the school put a lot of pressure on me to work with him to 'just get the homework done.' I'm glad I pushed back and insisted that we spend our time together reading poetry and plays - something that clearly spoke to him when nothing else was. Three years later he got into a great arts high school, and now he's successfully enrolled in a great college. It doesn't necessarily mean more arts education, but focus-on-tests-and-homework-worksheets-only is clearly taking the umph out of learning for a lot of people.

  2. Anonymous3:50 PM

    Britt, this post brought back sweet memories. Here are a couple more. I remember when, at age 3, you drew faces expressing all of the primary emotions & explained them to me. And then there was the first sign that you would be a creative entrepreneur, when at age 5, you sold some of the multitude of your baby gerbils to finance your Barbie doll's wardrobe. :-) I know that The children you work with as a "reading partner" will have fun and learn a lot from you.

  3. What a wonderful story, Benet. Thanks for sharing it.

    Mom - Those gerbils did keep my Barbies well dressed!!

  4. Beautiful and poignant post, siSTAR. Creativity is essential to both personal and collective evolution and flowering. I am in total agreement! I will pass this on and share it with everyone I know. Stoked to start Art Everyday! YAY! Life as Art! Thank Goodness!

  5. Thanks, Gabriela (: And thanks for sharing the post with your Facebook, peeps.


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