In his TED talk, “Do Schools kill Creativity?” Sir Ken Robins argues that schools are educating people out of their creativity through the unintentional, and perhaps sometimes intentional, philosophy that “mistakes are the worst thing we can make. While I agree with much of Sir Ken’s statement, I disagree with his point because I think it is incomplete. Although schools throughout the world have contributed to the standardizing of young minds, they have also inspired and encouraged; they have built environments where students feel safe enough to fail, they have guided them through it and into growth and change. They have done so through an active engagement of each student and their unique capabilities, through the fostering of curiosity, creativity, and humility.
Sir Ken's argument is also extremely valid. Students today, everywhere in the world, are losing their creative minds and abilities. But the villain is not education. The villain is a faulty mind that moves the hand, a mind of “teaching to the test” - standardized learning and teaching strategies. Fortunately, where there is a villain, a hero will always rise, bringing truth and comfort to the afflicted. Heroes like Howard Gardner and Benjamin Bloom.
In A Hero of a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell argues that all heroes follow the same journey. They leave home, fight and wrestle for wisdom and truth, then return home with the purpose of sharing what they have learned, or to remind their home of what they have forgotten. Howard Gardner, through his journey and research, has reminded us of the desperate need for curiosity and creativity, that no two children learn and express in the same way, and that through multiple teaching and assessment strategies, students will not only get a much deeper and satisfying education, they will personalize the information, manipulate it, and build upon it. They will, according to Gardner’s research, score better on tests. More importantly though, they will use it outside the classroom, they will manipulate and change and grow upon it in future years. They are more likely to become life-long learners.
Gardner's work, like a hero's companion, works hand in hand with Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning. Not only should teaching strategies and assessments vary in types of intelligence, they should vary in levels of learning. Foundations of knowing and understanding build the foundation for curiosity and creativity, but without evaluation, synthesis, and analysis curiosity and creativity is stifled. Good education is progressive. It starts where the students are and gradually builds and grows and strengthens. Through routine yet differing assessment types, students and teachers will be able to gauge progress, assess and reassess their understanding of content and skills, and build upon what they know - through curiosity - inspiring creativity.
This pursuit, of creating classrooms that are as dynamic as the students who fill the seats, alongside the limitations of time and resources, is a daunting and, at times, an almost impossible feat. Which is why teachers too are heroes, because they live out humility. Derrick Jensen defines humility a bit different than what is commonly understood in our mainstream culture. Rather than thinking less of oneself, he explains, humility is the full acknowledgement of one’s gifts, abilities, and talents and the choosing to use them (or withhold them) for the benefit of others. Like heroes who sacrifice their lives to save their community and sometimes the world so, too, do teachers. Good teachers inspire and model curiosity and creativity in and out of their classrooms. They invest in the lives of their students and community well beyond what is expected in any contract or what is satisfied by any paycheck. And they do so because it’s what is best for the community. Their lives are their verse within the play. Good teachers know that actions speak louder than words.
I agree with Sir Ken when he says “intelligence is dynamic and wonderfully interactive.” Educators have the unique and powerful job of helping students make something of the future - a future where we have little knowledge of what will happen or what it will look like. The purpose of education then is to guide students into a future they cannot grasp, to equip them with skills and knowledge and abilities so that they may be men and women of intelligent action when no one knows what to do. Mistakes are not the worst thing that can happen, they are the best. In a safe environment, mistakes cultivate curiosity, inspire creation, and teach how to live lives defined by humility.
Sir Ken Robins asked if education is killing creativity. I don’t think so. Bad education is killing creativity, but good education is growing it. I believe my task as an educator is of the upmost importance, because heroes save lives. In my classrooms, each and every day, I plan to inspire creativity, curiosity, and humility. These three are the healthy mind that moves the hand.