The cult of creativity

Bill O’Chee wrote recently that the current fixation on creativity in schools is ‘anti-intellectual’.  He asserts that “while creativity is important, from sciences to the arts, what is more important is rigorous thinking.” O’Chee states that what today’s learners need from their education is to “learn how to think deeply.”

If critical thinking is the precursor to creativity, then how do we develop and assess this skill in teachers so that reading critically, analysing data and formulating ideas is intuitive?

Fareed Zakaria, author of the recently published In Defense of a Liberal Education, states that education must satisfy two important aspects: creativity and causality.  First you must be able to engage in ‘out of the box thinking’ and then have the ‘rigor and clarity’ with respect to what you are arguing about.

Zakaria makes the point that in a global age where information is retrievable in seconds, we still insist that students learn superficial facts while forgoing the deeper questions of ‘why’.  As my colleague, Dr Miranda Jefferson says, it’s about asking ‘why’ and then ‘why, really?’

In a recent blthinkerog post Yong Zhao discusses the two competing educational paradigms.  He writes that “employee-oriented education values what children should learn, while entrepreneur-oriented education values what children would learn.”

By its very nature, an entrepreneur-oriented education is classically liberal. It encourages students to follow their passions in search of deeper understanding and mastery.  To think critically is to always be asking ‘why’ and it is in this journey of student discovery that the nature of teacher’s work takes shape.

If we want schools to be places where creative modes of practice flow freely, then it requires teachers and students to be continually engaged in critical modes of thinking.










4 thoughts on “The cult of creativity

  1. Creativity demands ‘what’: What is it saying? What does it mean? What is its language? What makes it work? What is its intention? What is its function?
    Creativity and critical thinking go hand in hand.

  2. While I understand Bill O’Chee’s call for intellectual rigour, he fails to recognize that this need not be the expense of creative thinking. His argument rests on the assumption that creativity is mere happenstance and as such doesn’t require complex problem solving skills and persistence to be fully realized. As you rightly declare Greg, educational thinkers such as Ken Robinson and Yong Zhao argue convincingly for the fostering of creativity. By putting these concepts at odds we are doing our learners and teachers at a disservice. Rigorous thinking without the application of imagination would result in a very uninspiring education system indeed.

    1. Thanks for the comments Nicole. Too often we fall into the reductionist trap in education. Creativity requires critical thinking as much as students need good teachers.

  3. Reblogged this on Innovation in Learning and commented:
    Nice reflection. It is easy to get carried away with allowing opportunities for creativity with all the great apps and sites available in the modern classroom. The trick is to get the students incorporating critical thinking into the process of creating something meaningful.

    Unfortunately critical thinking requires effort and generally very few students will take it upon themselves to go down this road. One of the major tasks undertaken at our College is the creation of video profiles of soldiers from WW1. This task requires an enormous amount of critical thinking just to get started. It is exactly the type of task we should be doing across the board.

    Authentic, high level tasks that everyone has to complete. Each requiring a high level of thought before the task can commence. I previously thought that starting with a simple task and building from there was a preferred option but more and more I feel we need to be challenging more of our students to start producing better than just the base level needed to meet the outcomes.

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