Why do we sing, or dance, or act? Why do we write poetry, create films or throw wet clay on a spinning wheel? What is the allure, the reason, the purpose?
Why do children sit for extended periods of time creating a fantasy world out of a pile of blocks? Why do we stretch our imaginations and marvel at the recognition of new approaches to solve new problems?
Simply, we're wired to do it. It's a fundamental expression of our humanity. We have a shared and inherent need to express ourselves in ways that are creative, some would say "artistic." Look around. It's everywhere. Have you looked at the rail cars of a passing train recently? They are likely covered with graphic expressions of all manner of themes. As different as the purpose may be, they are striking in their common assessment: "There is some talent there." Why? Why do they do that? Why do they sing? It's because they must.
Ours is a nation, that when establishing its agenda, doesn’t place great importance on creative enterprises. There is an attitude that the creative arts, by example, are lovely, but not an absolute necessity. These same art forms are consistently vulnerable in the winds of economic chaos. We are eager to enter the race of comparison between nations of who produces students with the highest mathematics scores or the greatest achievement evidence in scientific pursuits. Not that these skills are not important, but we are less concerned with measurements of creativity, innovation, design and artistic accomplishment. Let me be clear. Creativity is not exclusive to the arts. It is much larger and enjoys a far greater reach. Creativity is, and has always been, the precursor to new ideas and innovations in every conceivable discipline of endeavor. It now deserves a greater role and prominence than it ever has before.
Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind – Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future writes: “For nearly a century, Western society in general, and American society in particular has been dominated by a form of thinking and an approach to life that is narrowly reductive and deeply analytical. Ours has been the age of the ‘knowledge worker,’ the well-educated manipulator of information and deployer of expertise. But that is changing. Thanks to an array of forces, we are entering a new age. It is an age animated by a different form of thinking and a new approach to life; one that involves the capacity to detect patterns and opportunities, to create emotional and artistic beauty, to craft a satisfying narrative, and to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into something new. Further, it involves the ability to empathize with others, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one’s self and to elicit it in others, and to stretch oneself in the pursuit of purpose and meaning. Today, the defining skills of the previous era – the “left brain” capabilities that powered the Information Age (sequential, logical and analytical)– are necessary but no longer sufficient. And the capabilities we once disdained or thought frivolous – the “right brain” qualities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfulness and meaning – increasingly will determine who flourishes and who flounders. Professional success and personal fulfillment now require a whole new mind.”
Shouldn't the development of this "whole new mind" be a prominent undertaking of schools? Particularly in the encouragement and development of creativity? Students arrive at the school house with boundless, innate creativity, eager to learn how to apply this gift, to embrace the creative process and to honor a fundamental human need, rooted in both a cognitive and spiritual place, to apply their creativity toward the development of new learning. Yet, a bizarre thing happens. With startling frequency, schools overlook this attribute in their young charges. Worse yet, the pressures of our overly standardized system of public education discourages the application of creativity, effectively denying students the opportunity to engage in a profound, shared and ancient human yearning – to make sense of the world and to allow the conveyance of meaning through new representations that are not possible through conventional methods of communication.
As human beings, we must create in order to move our species forward. Students must, likewise, engage in creative thought and practices to fully reach their commercial, economic. intellectual, personal and human potential. Next week's post will examine why some people appear to be inherently more creative than others, and will address the argument of whether creativity can be taught. (Spoiler alert . . . yes, it can.) In the meantime, ask yourself this question and ponder your response:
Why do you sing?