Why schools don't teach for creative intelligence: A rant

Is creativity welcome? Watching this George Carlin clip piqued my cynicism this morning.

Creativity is portioned. It was condoned in early days to the arts and religion, and for good purpose.  It needed an outlet.  Fine arts allowed for personal expression; crafts contributed design to functional items.  Passion plays with all their decorations and oratorios lifted the religious spirit.  Western culture gave creativity a place where it could be controlled and safely released. Now, creativity is everywhere.  We see it in design, information systems, technologies and we expect it whenever new decisions are required.

When new discoveries threaten prevailing beliefs however, such as Galileo’s theory that the earth rotated around the sun, or Shawn Fanning’s invention of  Napster, sanctioning often follows.

Galileo’s championing of Copernicanism was controversial within his lifetime, when a large majority of philosophers and astronomers still subscribed to the geocentric view that the Earth is at the centre of the universe. After 1610, when he began publicly supporting the heliocentric view, which placed the Sun at the centre of the universe, he met with bitter opposition from some philosophers and clerics, and two of the latter eventually denounced him to the Roman Inquisition early in 1615. In February 1616, although he had been cleared of any offence, the Catholic Church nevertheless condemned heliocentrism as “false and contrary to Scripture”,[10] and Galileo was warned to abandon his support for it—which he promised to do. When he later defended his views in his most famous work, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, published in 1632, he was tried by the Inquisition, found “vehemently suspect of heresy,” forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.[11][12]

As competition for winning wars increased, innovative technologies and inventions came onto the scene, influencing how businesses were run.  New ideas and new decisions were made to ensure good use of resources. The printing press, steam engine, light bulb, telephone were attributed to scientists’ and engineers’ ingenuity and inventiveness.

Creativity moved into the realm science as people tried to figure out how Einstein, for example, came up with the E=MC2 equation so they could do the same, and achieve renown and wealth. Thomas Kuhn in the Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) tracked revolutionary thinking that changes things.

  • peculiarities occur that do not fit neatly into the existing paradigm
  • this causes people to question their assumptions with regard to how things are done
  • a new paradigm, a revolutionary one emerges, creating a new status quo

Creativity has no value

From an economics perspective, however, creativity doesn’t fit anywhere, it fits nowhere.  It’s unmeasurable, does not account for much. It is behind the scenes. In the old days if you wanted creativity, you sought out the advertising agency’s advice.  Today, you source the crowd for new ideas and don’t pay them for their suggestions. Generating new ideas as inputs for making new decisions to create exciting new futures does not necessarily yield revenue or new scientific or technological innovation.  It may or may not contribute to a sound balance sheet or guarantee growth, though using it could.

When all else that used to work no longer does, it’s not uncommon to look for new perspectives, new angles to accomplish what is desirable.  People trained in using creativity methods and approaches have a great deal of valuable insight to offer.

Conditions are changing too fast, too furious. Ecological shifts require new ideas and new decisions regarding how we feed, clothe and take care of children.  Economic shifts have us taking a second look at how and what we consume.  Social shifts are redefining the meaning of family and have us questioning long-held traditions for their worth and applicability in today’s age.  (When I was in Malaysia years ago, a mosque caretaker asked me what I thought of cloning, because it wasn’t in the Koran or the Bible.  I remember telling him, if either great works were written today, there’s a likelihood cloning would be included. ) Technological shifts enable new capabilities daily, requiring putting new systems in place to accommodate them. It’s hard to keep up.

What’s the payoff for students to learn to use their creativity?

What if schools taught for creative intelligence?  Is there an economic benefit or advantage to doing so?  Are there jobs for creativity?  Are people using creativity, the capacity to suggest and imagine alternative methods, products, services and other ways to generate revenues as occupational entry level requirements?

Many people fear losing what they’ve gained and because the momentum for change is so strong they want to maintain control of what they know, even if it no longer serves their or their society’s interests.

Better that schools should continue teaching what they do.  Keep the students hearts and minds sheltered from the storms that await them, and then, as adults, have them panic, doubt their resilience and intelligence to tap into their natural capacities to ask new questions which will lead them making their world a better place.

If creativity were valued, it would be paid for.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if all creativity ceased and became available only on demand and for a price?  Think that would change schools attitudes toward teaching for creative intelligence?