Monday, June 6, 2011

Notes on the Education System and Creativity

File:Creative writing class-fine arts center (402690951).jpg
Leesa from southtown, usa

Creativity must be taught in public education, if we are to get out of our current crisis of creativity. At one time people thought that the children of workers and farmers could never learn to read, write and do mathematics. Today we have nations with mass college education and high-tech economies built on this mass knowledge and skill.

Creative education is the next stage of public education, and all children can become creative because all have right brains. The complex needs of modern society absolutely demand creative workers.

Creative education however leads to other important issues -- such as education in personal psychology and emotions. For these reasons, and simply the needs of an individual in a complex society to gain self knowledge and skill, these topics must be part of a curriculum. And this will completely change our notions of public education, high school, college and continuing adult education.

Classes in creativity
Creativity can be applied to many classes from the industrial arts to business to computer programming to science to art to creative writing and much more. Classes in “pure creativity” can teach the most general and essential methods and mindsets of creativity. Classes in technical topics will merge general creative method with the specific science, skill and information of each discipline.

Further, schools can take students beyond a class in creativity to developing a lifestyle and philosophy of creativity. This would be for those who are interested in primarily pursing a life and career of creativity.

Because creativity is so closely connected with emotional, ego and psychological behaviors, these topics must be addressed in a school curriculum. There would have to be more counselors and even mentors provided who can help young people navigate through the many difficulties that creative activity creates. While the sub-mind that handles logic, rules, math and details has a minimized emotional life, the sub-mind of imagination and innovation has a large and mobile emotional life that one must understand and master. Further, creativity is often bound up with personal identity, so this issue must be addressed in school.

Creativity is also bound up with ethics in a direct way because in a class on creativity the product that the student creates must be examined from a moral point of view, due to the impact of this item or service or idea on society. So classes in creativity will inevitably lead to discussions of ethical intent and result. A discussion of math or grammar does not do so.

Critical thinking
Critical thinking can be developed to teach students not to take established systems for granted and to make strides through logic and idealism toward creative solutions to intellectual, scientific and social problems. Critical thinking is a twin to creative thinking, both share similar traits. Critical thinking, however, is a pre-stage, a precursor to true creativity. Critical thinking looks at the world and notes negative features, in itself it is not creative, though it leads to the positive stage creativity. One merely has to ask the question, what would you replace this with? Critical thinking is one path to build up the justification and the desire to enter the realm of creativity, to learn the methods of creativity.

In the present public education system, there are far too many classes built simply upon the memorization of information. These classes should be pared down to core goals only. Memorization of details can continue in college when a specialization requires it.

If the goal of school is actually memorization, then we are failing at that too. If we truly want to teach memorization techniques and the use of technology to store and link data, then we should simply do that. We can have supercharged classes in just this, and these skills would be very useful in all learning and in life to come. One of the issues that a creative person faces is how to store, categorize and link all of his or her creative inventory; techniques are needed here.

The remaining public school classes built on logic, math, grammar can also be “supercharged”. Too much time is wasted in memorization of information that will be promptly forgotten, and the repetition of operations ad nauseam. What we need to do is focus on thought methods themselves, to make them self conscious. It seems that the schools creep up on analytic thought and then retreat, leaving that work for college professors, which is far too late.

Supercharged Logic
Much time is wasted in schools by not directly teaching thought methods. Usually we wait until college to give students a peak into logic and analytic methods, finally, we try to make them self conscious of their mental operations. The problem is that it is too late.

When we teach students to think in grammar schools and in high school, teachers avoid a focus on the axioms of thought. This should be the starting point – exercises in logic, then application to problems and writing.

If we are to introduce creativity into a school curriculum then we will have no choice but to build supercharged courses in logic and analysis, because we will no longer have the time to wander about the point, and try to sneak up on abstraction and abstract thought in some sort of strategy of gradualism. The leap to abstraction is abrupt for a child, but every Human child has the ability to reach the stage of abstraction whether it is in logic, math or language. This ability is in our genes but we pretend it must be introduced from the outside.

With a more focused teaching strategy we can use the freed up time for creativity and psychology and ethics. If we avoid a direct engagement with the student about thought methods, if we do not wage the battle in the abstraction realm, then the direction will be toward more rote exercises in math and grammar, and even less time available for other classes and directions.

It is odd that the very things we chastise our education system for, its stress on memorization and mechanical operations, and on grammar and math, do not yield any mastery of these skills or subjects. One would think that at least children would excel at memorization skills or math, but they do not. There is some sort of problem of focus on what the main goals really are, and at the same time a large lack of confidence in the intellectual and abstract abilities of children.

A Revolution
In any case, a curriculum about creativity would bring a revolution. There would be focused courses in the old subjects taking up far less time and energy. Psychology and emotions would have to be dealt with because creativity requires much inner management. These classes would obviously help provide young people budding emotional skills which they sorely need in this culture. Further, whether one likes it or not, the issue of Identity will come to the fore because identity problems and emotional problems go together for adolescents. And in the reigning culture of consumerism and Polythea, identity development is being undermined by corporate images and models.

Issues will arise about lifestyle. Will creative skills taught in a class remain just in the sphere of a class or future professions? Or will the methods of randomness for example become more of a lifestyle. For some, the classes will lead to new general behaviors and to a personality redirection.

Whole child, Whole mind
Teachers and administrators will now become responsible for the whole mind of the child --  left brain, right brain, emotions, morality, even subconscious and more. This is where we are heading. To not be responsible for the whole mind of a child is to focus on a fragment and to neglect and suppress the rest. The result is what you see in our society today – people with no creative skills, no self knowledge, and dubious morality.

The overall thrust of a new curriculum would be to bring balance and diversity in the mental realm. This strategy echoes with an older approach of the ancients who tried to provide a strategy for creating a whole Human being, Humanism.

A whole Human being requires whole curriculum. Education once was many things in a village. Today education is a narrow thing that stresses mathematics and grammar but in fact fails at even that. So we do not know really what education’s real purpose is.  It seems to be a confused and lost institution.

To create a whole Human being, to bring in wave after wave of new young citizens we must think differently. What we require is a new curriculum, new targets and new measures.

New stresses would include emotion, psychology, self identity, morality, creativity, critical thinking, true analytic thinking, language and communication. Math, grammar and writing will continue as important themes but the approach is failing and must be rethought.

The new strategy would be to reduce memorization but improve memorization technique. Related to this would be sending courses to specialization in college, replacing them with general summaries. Very importantly is stress upon skills and not memorization, details, and specializations. Also, there is the teaching of a kind of “supercharged logic”, that is the acquisition of thought methods in a straightforward, self conscious way – teaching students to actually think, instead of repeating someone else’s analytic logic.

We tend to shy away from a child’s ability to abstract, it is a natural skill that educators tend to creep up upon but never seem to penetrate or employ. Abstraction leads to language, mathematics and logic. But in school systems the tactile and graphic is substituted for the abstract, slowing down intellectual development.

Creativity must become a priority in any modern curriculum; the days of rigid “left brain” thinking must come to an end. Further, technology and software should be used to assist students, and we should not try to reduce the Human brain to a calculating device or a sort of vast hard drive for storing data. Counseling and mentors will be important in new schooling because psychology will be a very big part of the curriculum now, because we will be dealing with the whole Human being.

The new school prepares the student for the new world. The present school leaves the student disarmed and ignorant. She and he are not creative, not analytic, not critical thinkers. This contributes to our failure to solve pressing problems, some at crisis proportions in modern culture.

Further, the student is without self identity, without emotional knowledge. And this allows consumerism, media, marketing and entertainment to easily manipulate and exploit citizens. In sum, we are preparing our young to fail and thus whole nations to fail.  One would think that the school system is actually designed to create dysfunctional individuals, who would serve the needs of social powers that have a separate agenda, who benefit from lack of thinking and creativity, and an inner ignorance.

New Schools
All of this raises an interesting problem. If the reigning culture wants the school system to underperform and remain in an old and obsolete kind of factory mode, how does one create a new system? It must begin at the bottom, at the local level it seems.

Experimental schools are needed to develop the practices; vanguard schools are needed to inspire and lead other teachers, students and parents.

Total Immersion
The Maori of New Zealand created a concept called “Total Immersion”. A total immersion school pulls the student out of the over-culture and submerges him or her in a complete environment where traditional values, mythology, art and language are exclusively taught.

We can learn from this idea in the developed world, for we also need “total immersion” for a new school strategy to succeed. The school must be the embryo of the new culture, the citizen is being created, a person with new behaviors, attitudes and skills. This school must be sheltered from the outer world to succeed. It must be a kind of sanctuary and sanctum where children are protected from the untoward ways of the world. There is no other way to do this.

So Total Immersion demands a total immersion in the new rising culture. The difference with the Maori is that they have a pre-existing culture to draw upon, but we in the modern world do not – we must create our alternative culture at the same time as we are teaching it.

 Cage Innoye

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