Saturday, August 26, 2006

Education for a Creative Age'

  An excellent illustrated book about the 'dream killing' side of schooling. Posted by Picasa

Sometimes you wonder if schools are really aware of the interests, diverse cultures and the environment of their students because is seems to feature so rarely in their programmes.

Teachers 'just keep on talking' too busy to notice the learning opportunities that lie under their noses;'the geraniums are dying on the window sills.'

Primary teachers , while keen to acknowledge that they are 'child-centred', in reality spend most of their time implementing literacy and numeracy programmes, all too often following ‘scripts’ prepared by those long distant from the reality of classrooms. Ironically recent national surveys indicate that students are less competent in mathematic than they ought to be! The recent emphasis on literacy and numeracy are a retreat to the Victorian basics and leave little time for the potential excitement encapsulated in the remainder of the Learning Areas.

Secondary schools are now being encouraged to get on board the literacy and numeracy ‘bandwagon’; secondary teachers, in the past, believed that these skills ought to have been in place by the time students reach their classrooms. Secondary teachers however remain locked in their Industrial Aged schools teaching their fragmented specialist subjects to the sound of the bell as if in some 'kafka like' educational factory.

In both cases teachers are too busy to capitalize on the interests and talents that each student brings to the learning situation; the 'geraniums are left to die on the window sills’.

At the very least schools talk about the ‘Information Age’ but, according to perceptive commentators, this ‘age’ has already passed its ‘use by’ date. According to Juan Enriquez, in his book, ‘As the Future Catches You, the ‘future belongs to countries who build empires of the mind’.

Richard Florida,author of ‘Rise of the Creative Class’, believes we are entering the ‘Creative Age’ – an age of ideas and innovation, and an age that will require a whole new class of workers: 'the creative class'.

To be successful a country like New Zealand can no longer rely on its natural resources to survive. Human creativity, Florida believes, is the ultimate economic resource. This takes us well beyond the current emphasis on literacy and numeracy and our antiquated traditional secondary schools.

Talent, technology and tolerance replace the old ‘three Rs’;the new 'capital' of the 21stC are creative, social and human.

This will requires ‘a brand new mind’, according to Dan Pink (author of a book of the same name), the future will be all about ‘high concept and high touch’. The dominance of the ‘left brained’ ‘Information Age’ needs to give way to ‘right brain’ qualities of: inventiveness, empathy and making new meanings

‘The keys of the kingdom’, Pink says, ‘are changing to suit people with a certain kinds of mind’ – creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. These people – artists,designers,educators, musicians, story tellers,entertainers, inventors, scientists, architects,caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers – will now reap societies richest rewards and share its greatest joys.’ The function of all is 'to create new ideas, new technology, and new content.’

Schooling will need to be transformed if we are to develop New Zealand as a 'creative country'.

Our current 'one size fits all' system will not adequately equip all our future citizens. ‘The main crisis in our schools’, according to Dan Pink, ‘is irrelevance’. Most schools, without being aware of it, are participating in the suppression of the creative genius of too many students.

Educator, John Taylor Gatto, says, ‘Schoolteachers aren’t allowed to do what they think best for each student...they forbid children their own discoveries, pretending to possess some vital secret to which students must surrender their active learning to acquire.’

Schools need to 'do stuff that matters'. 'Education at best is ecstatic'...'learning ought to be about delight'....'when joy is absent the effectiveness of the learning process fails and falls until the human being is operating hesitantly, grudgingly, fearfully’ ( George Leonard in ‘Education and Ecstasy’ 1968)

Frank Smith (in 'Insult to Intelligence’) writes, ‘Children learn what makes sense to them; they learn through the sense of things they want to understand’. 'Students', he believes, 'want to be allowed to think for themselves, to experiment, to engage in first hand observations’. He continues, ‘we are all capable of huge and unsuspected learning accomplishments’. In 1974, James Coleman wrote, that we need to ‘develop in youth the capabilities for engaging in intense concentrated involvement in an activity’.

Teachers need to stop talking and notice the ‘geraniums on the window sill’ – the interests and talents of their students so that they can acknowledge and build on them.

So it seems the ‘Creative Age’, according to Richard Florida, is a ‘wide open game’.

If the 'Industrial Age' needed factory workers equipped with the ‘three Rs’ and obedience, and the ‘Information Age’ required knowledge workers, the ‘Conceptual Age’ requires creators and empathizers.

Schools will need to transform themselves if New Zealand is to be a future world leader.

What we want is a ‘personalized’ education system that develops the interests and talents of all learners.


Anonymous said...

All countries seem to be at an important decision point - to patch up old systems, formulated in the 'Industrial' Age, or reinvent them for a new era. My bet it will be the former!

As Tom Peters, the business 'guru' says: ' New Work.New World.New Education.The three must meet'.

The late Peter Drucker, another business philosopher, wrote that no country had yet developed a 21stC Education system and those to do so would be the future winners.

Anonymous said...

The work of Howard Gardner, in the area of multiple intelligences, fits in well with what you ( and the people you quote) are saying.

We need to go with the 'flow' of what captures students' attention.

As Jerome Bruner wrote, 'People get good at what they are good at'. He aslo said that, 'Teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation'.

Bruce said...

It does seem sensible to me to tap into the different ways people are intelligent (H Gardner)

Schools are such a jumble of artifacts and structures belonging to a past age that is is impossible for them to design a 21stC personalized education system?

Would love to be proved wrong.

Anonymous said...

Teachers as educational 'dream killers' -not a pretty thought.