Monday, October 30, 2006

Schools to develop the creative talents of all students.

  Posted by Picasa 'Out of Our MindsLearning to be Creative’ By Sir Ken Robertson

Sir Ken Robertson is to be a keynote speaker at the combined NZPFF/ICP Conference to be held in Auckland in 2007.

It sounds like he will be well worth listening to. John Cleese writes about the book as ‘brilliantly written about the different ways in which creativity is undervalued and ignored in Western Culture and especially in our schools.’ Another commentator says the book, ‘calls for radical changes in the way we think about intelligence and education’; UK Educator Ted Wragg comments that Robertson reminds us that, ‘education, in particular, can squash the imagination and rock self confidence’.

It is not a hard book to read - but be warned, it could be mindchanging!

It answers the questions: Why is it essential to promote and develop creativity and what is involved promoting it? The concept of creativity the book argues for is that; everyone has creative capacities; these capacities are the greatest resource available to an organization, and the need to develop a culture of innovation.

Education, ‘doesn’t just follow the natural grain of young people’s abilities’. Education, Robinson believes, is vital to every individual’s success but all too often it, ‘stamps us with deep impressions of ourselves….that is hard to remove….Success or failure can affect our image of ourselves for life…. Some of the most brilliant and successful people in all walks of life…failed education’.

Education ignores too many people abilities leading to a waste of talent and resources. As a result many highly intelligent people have passed through education feeling they aren’t; even so called ‘successful students’ leave never having discovered other hidden talents.

Creating the conditions to release creativity of students, and their teachers, is the real issue. We simply do a disastrous job presently; and too many teachers find it impossible to utilize their own creative energy due to imposed pressures.

Education tells students the wrong story ignoring that, ‘real creativity comes from finding your medium from being in your element’. Worse still creativity is simply ignored – education kills rather than kindles creativity. Too many people are displaced from their own capabilities by schools designed for an industrialized society; we need new thinking for an information age premised on the creativity of all citizens. Ideas and creativity are the new commodities.

The fastest growing areas in the economy are the so called creative industries creating demands for new sorts of skills and aptitudes. Employers want people who can think intuitively, who are imaginative and innovative, who can communicate well, work in teams and are flexible, adaptable and self confident.

Achieving such people cannot be produced by our current education system in, fact schools, as they are currently structured, Robertson believes, are part of the problem. We need, he believes to confront, ‘deep seated assumptions that underpin our view of ourselves’ and our formal education system. ‘The dominant ideologies of education are now defeating their most urgent purpose to develop people who can cope and contribute to the breathless rate of change in the 21stC – people who are creative and flexible’ resulting in a ‘ tragic narrowing of intelligences…and a waste of creative ability.’ The sense of alienation of students trapped in the wrong system is compounded by structures of subject divisions, periods and bells. As a result many individuals leave school without ever discovering what their real intellectual capacities are; in a ‘crucial sense they never really know who they are or what they might become’.

Our current formal education system is still obsessed with an academic curriculum and achievement in literacy and numeracy to the exclusion of other forms of more creative intelligences. A paradigm shift is now required similar to the Renaissance sparked off by the invention of the printing press.

Robertson believes, ‘we are all born with extraordinary natural capacities’ and to develop our idiosyncratic creative abilities, ‘we need to recognize how rich they are and the conditions under which they will emerge’.

Creativity is a process of making sense by ‘trying on ideas’ – a process of ‘successive approximations’. New ideas can transform how we see things. Being creative, Robertson reminds us, involves doing things. ‘Real creativity comes from finding your medium, from being in your element. Discovering the right medium is often a tidal moment in the creative life of the individual’

Much of the assumed dichotomies between the arts and the science are false. Both are being creative, both are subjective. It is difficult pre-plan the final outcomes of both; a problem for our current education system based on reason determined to measure learning objectively. Too much of current education is still premised on transmission of traditional bodies of knowledge to individual students

We are at turning point when new liberating ideas are replacing accepted wisdom. New values, beliefs and attitudes are now gaining ground – but too slowly in our schools. New conditions are required to release the creativity of all students – we no longer live in a linear, logical planned world. Creativity draws on a network of ideas and knowledge too easily stifled in a traditional environment – we need to create new learning cultures open to ideas from all sources. Schools need to tap into ideas that excite their students’ passions and that have the potential to lead into many fields.

New ideas take root because they capture the imagination and the spirit of the times; societies and organisations that cannot adapt are doomed to fail.

Schools need to identify the students (and their teachers) creative abilities by putting them into situations that engage them in interdisciplinary tasks that test them to call upon ideas they may not be aware they have. It is critical to find the right medium to release students’ abilities and then to provide them with whatever assistance is required.

To do this means energizing and re-culturing the whole organization utilizing various disciplines or more radically removing such structures all together to give teachers and students the freedom to explore and be creative. There are no pre-planned ‘right answers’ in such dynamic organic environments – in creativity, ‘most of what you are going to do isn’t going out to turn out how you thought it would’.

Robertson believes, ‘education must change to meet the radically new circumstances in which they are now operating’. ‘At the heart of this argument’, he writes, ‘is that knowledge can be generated in many other ways than in words or numbers’. ‘New structures, and new ‘permeable’ curriculums, need to be developed – ‘we cannot meet the challenges of the 21stC with education ideologies of the 19th’.

Roberson’s challenge is for schools to seize the opportunities that now exist but to do so means, ‘we must be creative, we must cherish the individual and we must be courageous enough to meet ever greater challenges head on. We must routinely do what has never been done before and we must be obsessive about improving what we already do.’

The future is all about developing talents of all students and for this to happen there must be a new conception of human resources- we need all the talent we can get to ensure the very sustainability of the very world we live in – a world that our our past industrial thinking has all but destroyed.

We can no longer, Robertson concludes, ‘subject ourselves to a partial form of education. We have wasted or destroyed a great deal of what people had to offer because we couldn’t see the value of it.

Education, he believes, is the key to the future but only if it is changed to ‘give people back to themselves’; ‘we will need all our wits about us- literally. We must learn to be creative’.

A powerful read.

Will schools take up the challenge!

Last word to John Cleese ‘Brilliant


Anonymous said...

Yes all students have special interests, perspectives and idiosyncratic talents. It is refreshing to see a move away from the false premises that lead schools to focus on programmes for so called 'gifted' children. What needs recognition, as you indicate, is that all children have special gifts that are often overlooked, or at best underestimated, in their school environment.

Bruce Hammonds said...

A quote in the book says to classify is dangerous!

Anonymous said...

If we spent more time helping students develop, or uncover, their own gifts and less time teaching them what we ( or distant 'experts' ) think they ought to know, less students would fail 'our' schools.

Anonymous said...

The vision of education you share -as expressed in this book you review, seems so obvious but don't you despair that little of what you believe actually happens in schools?

Bruce Hammonds said...

I guess the answer is yes but hopefully things are changing out there. I reckon when I write my 500th blog I will call it a day. I think this is about number 420!