Do We Really Want Students to be Creative?

Electric Fiddle

A recent column in EdWeek asks a question that seems to come up rather frequently: Can Schools Teach Students to Innovate?. Which is basically the same as asking whether we can teach kids creativity, design thinking, entrepreneurship, or any number of other synonyms for open-ended thinking.

All these “skills” are in demand, right? Well, at least they’re popular in polls that ask about such things.

Of all the so-called 21st-century skills, perhaps none is revered in both the education and business worlds as much as creativity.

In the past year alone, creativity topped lists of the most valued skills for students to develop in polls of parents and teachers as well as surveys of employers in professional groups like LinkedIn. Even so, experts say schools need to re-examine their view of creativity, reframe it, and think about it more as a core skill to be taught rather than a personality trait or a way to motivate students.

The article goes on to speculate that creativity is not taught in most schools because, among other things, it’s unpredictable and hard to measure. But we are told that kids still need to learn to be creative (and it’s cousins) because that would make them “AI-proof”.

However, at the risk of repeating myself (something that seems to happen frequently around here), I still don’t believe it is a “skill”, core or otherwise.

If you look at very young children and how they process the world, it’s clear that most already come equipped with those abilities. From the earliest age, kids use a lot of critical thinking and creativity to cope the world. They experiment with just about everything to make sense of everything that is new to them.

However, parents, teachers, and other adults, work very hard to reign in that inclination and provide some structure that fits the societal norms. Certainly much of that really is for their own good, but those restrictions also begin the process of stunting the 4-C skills kids were born with.

I’m not sure our education system really values creativity as much as administrators, teachers, parents, and others claim. If it did, schools would be very different places. The curriculum would be very minimal and subject to change. The classroom would not at all be teacher-driven. What students learn and how they learn it would be heavily based on their interests and talents.

But all of that doesn’t fit into our current idea of “school”.

Instead we have a very rigid structure in most K12 schools, one that works very hard to funnel everyone toward the spring tests, with a view of college in the distance. Creativity is tolerated, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the goals of the institution.

Lots of creativity on display in this photo from the 2017 MakerFaire NoVA, mixing together electronics and music.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.