Sunday, May 11, 2008

Okay Class, Let's Be "Creative"

Something every parent encounters routinely are the number of inane ways that certain teachers think they're encouraging creative activities.

There's the ubiquitous choose your own font meme, the go to Staples - buy a giant display poster and posterize a book report meme, the colorize a map, create a chart, graph, picture meme, or put-it-in-your-own-words scramble meme, and on and on.

The uncreative ways teachers think about creative minds is symptomatic of the school methodology and that can only be NCLB under the current dictatorship.

A few months ago, an article, Innovative Minds Don’t Think Alike by Janet Rae-Dupree appeared in the New York Times about creativity that's worth reading.
IT’S a pickle of a paradox: As our knowledge and expertise increase, our creativity and ability to innovate tend to taper off. Why? Because the walls of the proverbial box in which we think are thickening along with our experience.

Andrew S. Grove, the co-founder of Intel, put it well in 2005 when he told an interviewer from Fortune, “When everybody knows that something is so, it means that nobody knows nothin’.” In other words, it becomes nearly impossible to look beyond what you know and think outside the box you’ve built around yourself.

This so-called curse of knowledge, a phrase used in a 1989 paper in The Journal of Political Economy, means that once you’ve become an expert in a particular subject, it’s hard to imagine not knowing what you do. Your conversations with others in the field are peppered with catch phrases and jargon that are foreign to the uninitiated. When it’s time to accomplish a task — open a store, build a house, buy new cash registers, sell insurance — those in the know get it done the way it has always been done, stifling innovation as they barrel along the well-worn path.
The remedy?
To innovate, Mr. Heath says, you have to bring together people with a variety of skills. If those people can’t communicate clearly with one another, innovation gets bogged down in the abstract language of specialization and expertise. “It’s kind of like the ugly American tourist trying to get across an idea in another country by speaking English slowly and more loudly,” he says. “You’ve got to find the common connections.”

In her 2006 book, “Innovation Killer: How What We Know Limits What We Can Imagine — and What Smart Companies Are Doing About It,” Cynthia Barton Rabe proposes bringing in outsiders whom she calls zero-gravity thinkers to keep creativity and innovation on track.

When experts have to slow down and go back to basics to bring an outsider up to speed, she says, “it forces them to look at their world differently and, as a result, they come up with new solutions to old problems.”
So why are schools insisting on narrowly defined specialists to teach?

Just another example of the unintended consequences of black and white thinking.

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