Where I am teaching I see a high emphasis on test scores. Since I teach in an area that we are not able to “score”, I find that the administrators and teachers don’t really understand the value or creative aspects of art. Consequently, the course is treated by some as a “filler” so that they can have their planning periods. If we are to educate children for the future, we will have to begin by first educating the educators. Since there hasn’t been a clear-cut way of gauging creativity, it has been grossly over looked in the schools. Even the physical arrangement of our classrooms does not support creativity. I sense that “learning for tomorrow” is learning how to be a creative individual that can handle a variety of situations, whether they be emotional, physical, mental, or whatever.
Strangely enough, I wrote these words way back in the early eighties when I was teaching at my first teaching job and attending graduate classes. I recently came across an old notebook that I use to write in. When I came across these words, I couldn’t believe it. Test scores? My how things don’t really change after all. We are living in a high stakes time of testing but the push for testing has been going on as long as I have been teaching. The thing I find frustrating is how unimportant creativity seems in all of this.
However, my perspective on creativity has never really changed. I have always felt that the most important thing for learning is creativity. Students need to have time to explore when they are learning. This exploration needs to involve the student in ways that force him/her to create something new, to come up with new ideas, to think outside of the box. Most people are not aware of the many known cases of creative people that were not recognized in regular school education, but somehow through their own creativity became successful. Of course, Thomas Edison comes to mind right away. However, are you aware that people like Ben Franklin, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, John D. Rockefeller, George Burns, Colonel Sanders, Charles Dickens, Elton John, Harry Houdini, and Ringo Starr all quit their formal schooling at young ages? Some went back to school, like Einstien, but others flourished by finding something they really were interested in doing. I think the way we school students today we do not allow children to discover what truly interests them. If you can find something that you are interested in doing and you spend countless hours perfecting your abilities at getting better at it, you may become an expert in that field. I often think about the first time I threw a pot on a wheel. Of course, I could hardly center the clay, let alone create a worthy piece of pottery. It actually took years before I felt like I was somewhat of an expert, and even that meant that I could not necessarily throw huge pieces of clay.
Why have we, as parents, allowed schools and government to take our children and push two subjects at them as though that is all that is important? It is reading or it is math. These two areas count for everything these days. Of course, I think these subjects are important and obviously, if you cannot read, your opportunities will be limited. However, the next Einstien may be sitting in a classroom where a teacher thinks he is “slow” or dim witted because he doesn’t score well on government-mandated tests. Seriously, we are messed up as a society, when all we care about are test scores. As human beings, we are more than our last test score. The measure of a man or a woman is not what they scored on their ACT or SAT but on how they live their life. I worry about our society as we elevate the students that score well on tests and ignore the students that may be daydreamers or late bloomers. We cannot discredit the different ways people learn and we should not treat students as a one size fits all mentality. We should embrace their differences and encourage creativity and original thinking. People that are willing to make mistakes and try something new will be willing to think outside the box and come up with new ideas. Those new ideas may be the next invention or innovation of an old idea. No one knows what the future is going to hold. I didn’t have a clue almost thirty-five years ago when I wrote that paragraph about testing that it would hold true today as well. As a society, we say we appreciate creative people but we try to put square pegs in round holes every opportunity we get when we ignore the natural creativity of children. Ken Robinson explains in this video how our formal education system does everything it can to undermine children’s creativity.
In the end, we must teach our children to discover their interests and really follow their dreams. What is it that is going to take to make them better people? What is going to make them reach their full potential? Should it be just about making money or is there something more? What is going to make them truly happy? We all want to produce something. We want to feel joy and nurture our interests. I have to agree with Alan Watts when he asked a simple question: What do I desire? What if money were no object?
As a society, what are we teaching our children to value? Is it all about making money or is it about something more creative than just that? How do we stand out in a world where we are asked to all conform to that square peg? The artist in each of our children wants to stay an artist. Why are we happy when our children put away what we deem to be “childish” things such as art? Art is our humanity. It is what differentiates us really from all other life forms. We should embrace our creativity, nurture it, and develop it.