The 3 Rs and 1 C of school

What's the true genesis of creativity?  And the true need for creativity?  And how can an educator/classroom/school/district/nation/world encourage it in our students?  This evening at the Twitter #educhat forum on "Nourishing Creativity in the Classroom," a lively discussion was had, and the conversation finally eventually led to what I believe to be the crux of the matter limiting creativity in schools: grades.  Are grades and creativity mutually exclusive?  Polar opposites?  I should hope the answer is no, but I fear the answer, in 2009, may be yes.  Or at least perhaps.  First, one must consider the determine what creativity is before one can determine if it is being used and encouraged in schools.  According to, creativity is: 

"the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination."

Looking back, of course, it is easy for us to "see" creativity now in any given museum around the world: Starry Night by Van Gogh seems "creative" to us, because so many have said so.  If Van Gogh was our student, would we have considered him "creative"?  How would we have
 recognized and encouraged his creativity?  Or is creativity a static skill that cannot be cultivated?  I'm not sure if Van Gogh had a mentor in his school at age 13, but how will our schools handle the next Van Gogh?  Isn't it said that so many artists' true genius was not recognized until after his or her death?  Galileo, for example, had to retract his scientific achievements to fit in with the societal pressures of the time.  Now granted, I'm not suggesting we live in a time where The Church dictates our art or our education stifles true artistic genius, but are we 
  1. encouraging creativity in all students, in all classes, and with multiple intelligences?
  2. keeping up with 21st century technology and learning enough to know that creativity in the classroom may look different than it did twenty years ago?  Or ten?  Or five?  Or even just last year?
  3. sharing/celebrating/cultivating/recognizing both small and large creative achievements in our students?

If Van Gogh were my student, would I have given him an "A" in Social Studies?  Perhaps not.  Would he have earned an "A" in Art Class?  I'm not sure.  Would his creativity have been recognized or ignored?  Creativity during Van Gogh's lifetime may look differently than creativity today; are we prepared to know what that looks like in our classrooms?  I'm not sure that "creativity" was a category in a rubric in 1866, when Vincent Van Gogh was in middle school; should it be today?  Doesn't our new, flat world dictate that "creativity" be one of several factors that separate the "men" from the "boys" in the labor market?  I say that we must be ready, as educators, to support, encourage, recognize, and cultivate creativity in our students, even if we are not sure what that may exactly look like.  We are, after all, preparing our students for jobs we cannot even fathom yet. 

Demanding creativity be a factor in assessing our students would require an entirely new look at what schools and report cards look like in the 21st century.  Should creativity have a place on report cards?  Should it be universally accepted as another skill - "reading, writing, 'rithmetic and creativity."  As educators, we must put down our guard, and believe in the greatness our students can create and achieve.  What is the genesis of this creativity, though?  How can we encourage it?  Through positive reinforcement?  Through modeling?  Through grades?  We must shift our paradigm, and it may mean editing how we "see" or "think" of school to promote creativity so our students do "transcend traditional ideas...and...create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations."  It is not until creativity is seen as important in a leadership role, in both schools and world that we will start to see its impact on schools, grades, report cards, and the world.  Let's be ahead of the curve!


Kristen said…
Van Gogh, if he were a middle schooler today, would be medicated and on an IEP. Would probably spend time with the AP and/or school counselor for behavior issues and frequent absences, would have very few friends, and be a social pariah.

The problem is not with Van Gogh. Society needs to be re-taught/un-taught "norms"
Mrs. Stanley said…
I really liked Kristen's observation, and I found your post very though-provoking. The collaborative web 2.0 tools in use today really foster creativity. They force us to put together something new and different and not just regurgitate what we've learned by rote, whether we understand it or not. I really like PhotoStory3 for creating projects, even just simple ones such as presenting kids' research on a topic. When they write their scripts to explain the pictures they are using, it has to be in their own words, and hopefully, they have a deeper understanding of the material in the report they have produced than perhaps just putting together a PowerPoint.

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