Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. - Apple Inc "Think Different" ad.
Developing creativity in the classroom, in the school, in the district is not particularly difficult. Simple teaching techniques can spur divergent thinking. Innovation can be a part of all content areas and disciplines. Any project can have recognition of originality in its assessment. But creativity tends to be actively suppressed by teachers and administrators*. Here's why.
Educators actually fear creativity - whether we like to admit or not, whether we're conscious of it or not.
Off the top of my head, I can think a number of reasons...
- It upsets the organizational status quo. Creative approaches to education mean change. And change always means there are winners and losers - in power, in budgets, in comfort levels. Even if one has been only modestly successful in one's role at school, with change it could get worse. Any truly creative approach to solving a problem runs a real risk of making things worse, rather than better. Educators don't like risk.
- It changes relationships. Hugh MacLeod accurately reports that "a big idea will change you." We may like or dislike any individual student, but at least we "know" them and how to deal with them. Creative students grow in unpredictable ways. Creative people can just plain be uncomfortable to around. And we as educators love our "norms." (See Why Robots Make the Best Students.)
- It offends sensibilities. Artists (visual, musical, etc.) have always had the ability to shock. I'll bet that the Cro-Magnon (probably a teenager) who used two sticks to beat on a hollow log was driven from the cave. My dad couldn't stand rock-and-roll and I find rap tough to appreciate. Language or visuals one's own generation may find obscene or distasteful are often perfectly acceptable by kids - like it or not.
- It makes us feel inferior. When the tech department asks us to use a creative means of using a tool, we may feel inadequate. As librarians we all know we have a lot to learn about e-resources. As parents ask to be contacted using social media, our learning curve rises. Ask a person to do something new usually means learning on our parts. Why does your being creative always seem to mean more work for me?
- It undermines our efforts to create good test takers. The antithesis of creativity is asking for the "one right answer" which is exactly what educators ask students to regurgitate on standardized tests. (Ever wonder why they were called "standardized?) Tests are timed; creativity takes time. Tests are supposedly objective; creativity is often subjective. Tests demand respect for the authority of the test-takers; creativity questions and often defies authority.
- It's hard to measure. Which is more creative? A new vocal interpretation of a classic song or an new computer program that helps a diabetic monitor his blood sugar? The song will be assessed by music critics - and by the music-purchasing public. The software will be judged by a single factor - it works reliably or it doesn't. You can't place students or their ideas on a creativity bell curve. There are no creativity lexiles. Teachers especially have been led to doubt the value of their subjective judgments about their students.
- It may mean we adults are expected to demonstrate creativity as well. School cultures that value creativity ask for it from students AND staff. But I am doing everything perfectly now. Why change?
So are there antidotes to creativity aversion? Hmmmmmm....
- For the risk adverse, think small step approaches.
- Instead of "change," think of students growing and improving through creative approaches to problems, know they are practicing real-world dispositions.
- Think of how much a geezer you are when you start a sentence, "I can't believe today's kids' tastes in ______________." And try to remember what your parents hated about they way you dressed, what you listened, how you wore your hair, etc. (But you probably really shouldn't have gotten that tattoo.)
- Think upstream costs vs. downstream time savings. Yes, it may take some time to learn a new social networking tool for communications, but in the long run, more effective means of communication always saves time.
- Creativity also demands what I call "craftsmanship." Content knowledge, good skills, and other testable kinds of stuff is still necessary for creative individuals. Think assessment balance - although I know our politicians make this tough. More on craftsmanship in a future post.
- As educators, we need to reexamine the value of subjectivity when we deal with kids and their accomplishments. We are forcing way too many "round" kids into very "square" holes. Think personalization of education - taking evaluating each person's accomplishments personally, as well as their interests.
- If you don't want to try new things, take some risks, be adventurous, have a divergent (even subversive) thought now and then, you need to find a new line of work since you've lost your passion for education and are just collecting the paycheck. Think of a field far away from children. Thanks.
* Loved The Lego Movie's perceptive take on creativity and conformity. It's a must see.