The other day, I was talking to an English teacher who taught at Santa Monica California City College over a 20 year period. In fact, he even had Arnold Schwarzenegger as one of his students once upon a time. It turned out that Arnold was an extremely bright student who worked very hard and got really good grades, even though he had a little bit of a challenge with his English. Anyway, we got to talking about the challenges of creativity in education.
You see, many folks believe that one of the reasons we have trouble with innovation and creativity in the workforce is that we are training people through rote memorization, and pushing kids into the hard sciences without fully comprehending or understanding the importance of a liberal arts background. Indeed, there might be something to this, as in the hard sciences you are learning theories and facts, and dealing with lots of math, and an analytical thinking style. Pure reasoning and mathematics make creativity less likely in the human brain.
This is not to say that there have not been Nobel Prize winners who had studied physics, and yet came up with incredible innovations using all their mental faculties and creativity. In fact, winning a Nobel Prize in the sciences is a testament to one’s innovative ability, while still possessing an analytical scientific mind. It is possible to do both. Isaac Asimov was a very creative gentleman, but he was also a professor in college, with a PhD in chemistry.
If we are looking for more creativity and innovative minds to come out of our colleges to compete in the future then we need to change the way we teach, not necessarily what we are teaching. Students need to be able to ask questions, and also study those things which pique their curiosity, along with learning the facts, and knowing the difference between mysticism and science.
There’s a very interesting research book that I’d like to recommend that you read; “Creativity in Graduate Education,” A research report by Eisenhower, Benezet, and Sears, Claremont College Publishing and Printing Service, Claremont, CA, 1964, 55 pages in total.
What I find interesting about this is that back in 1964 they had identified the problem, much as our academic political pundits have done today, and yet we haven’t changed the way we teach, and therefore we are losing the game.
It seems as if we are going round and round without fixing the problem, and merely changing the buzzwords, and the academic vernacular as we go. At some point we need to do more than identify the problem – it’s time to address it. Perhaps you will please consider all this and think on it.