Monday, February 2, 2009

Creativity, Imagination, & Schools

"All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." --Picasso

I recently came back to Sir Ken Robinson's 2006 TED talk, Do schools kill creativity? 

It's really a beautiful and challenging piece. Robinson speaks about the future of education and education's purpose to take us into a future that is unknown. He criticizes public education for squandering kids' tremendous talents and poses that creativity is as important in education as literacy is. Creativity should be treated with the same emphasis.

He also touches on the importance of making and learning from mistakes. Those who are afraid to be wrong don't try new things. Currently, we teach our kids to fear mistakes. We search for the "right" and "best" answers in the classroom and stifle discussion where there are no clear cut answers. One strategy that I think works as an excellent tool for discussion is the use of Visual Thinking Strategies.

Visual Thinking Strategies are typically used within the visual arts to facilitate the discussion of a piece of art. Here's a summary of the technique from the VTS website:
Teachers are asked to use three open-ended questions:
  • What’s going on in this picture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What more can we find?
3 Facilitation Techniques:
  • Paraphrase comments neutrally.
  • Point at the area being discussed.
  • Link contrasting and complementary comments.
Students are asked to:
  • Look carefully at works of art.
  • Talk about what they observe.
  • Back up their ideas with evidence.
  • Listen to and consider the views of others.
  • Discuss many possible interpretations.
This technique is useful for a range of discussions--from visual art, to language arts, theatre, music, and dance. 

Still, the arts are at the bottom of the totem pole in schools, with theatre and dance holding a lower status than music and visual art. Why is this? Are we afraid of the use of the body? Robinson comments that public education is concerned with the waist up (Or even the neck up.) Why shouldn't children use their bodies to dance or express themselves through drama? There are people who must move to think--people who think through movement and expression. 

Public education meets the needs of industrialism. The most useful subjects for school are the ones that are most useful for work. What if you are good at the things at school that are not valued? 

We often say lets use hip hop to teach literacy and math, but why not use math and literacy to teach hip hop?

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