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"Creativity Index" Legislation

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On June 2, 2009 I visited the Massachusetts legislature's Joint Education Committee to give the following testimony in support of legislation that would institute a commission to create a Creativity Index.

Very few educators call or write their legislators. Do you? Fewer give testimony on legislation that will affect their professional lives and the lives of their students. Usually, you can submit it in writing. Won't you? We all need to be educator advocates for what we believe is best for children's learning. Legislators will appreciate receiving your point of view.

June 2, 2009
Massachusetts Joint Education Committee

To begin, let me define creativity as Sir Ken Robinson does, “Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value. (TED Talk)” Everything flows from that premise. Think of all the original ideas that have had value in our lifetime: in communications, medicine, science, business, industry, entertainment, the arts. Without original ideas society would be very different.

So, I’m in favor of creativity, but I don’t think our schools are. In fact, I asked my grandson, who is in high school, what he does that is creative and he couldn’t think of anything.

It doesn’t surprise me because in school original ideas don’t have value. The right answer, the correct answer is what we value. Uniqueness, and going your own way, doing your own thing, pursuing what interests you, what you may be good at, is not encouraged; in most cases it is not tolerated, and sometimes it is even punished.

I think we have to have a national Creativity Conversation about the value of creativity and the role we expect schools, and the rest of society, to play in nurturing and cultivating creativity in young people. The conversation must begin here because I’m not aware of any other place that’s considering legislation like the Creativity Index.

If you pass the Creativity Index legislation, the critical conversation can begin. If you don’t, nothing will change and the business of schooling will continue to dampen the imagination and frown on innovation.

Our future hangs on your decision because our future depends on how creative, imaginative, how innovative adults will be in the future. And that depends on what we expect, value and support in schools.

Picasso is quoted by Robinson as saying that “All children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.” Picasso’s right. We need to listen to what he’s saying.

In one study quoted by Ken Robinson from George Land and Beth Jarman’s book called, Breakpoint and Beyond: Mastering the Future Today, 98% of kindergarteners were classified as geniuses when it came to divergent thinking, which is what you do when you are not forced to conform. It’s a critical ingredient in creativity. 98% of our young people naturally ready to be creative. All education has to do is nourish and cultivate these divergent thinkers. Imagine a company, a hospital, a scientific team, a farm, a high school or university where 98% of the people are creative.

Creativity%20Index%20Testimony.doc.jpg

That same study found that as children age the percentage of divergent thinkers shrinks. By age ten the 98% has shrunk to 32% and by age fifteen it is only 10%. It’s no wonder when they tested 200,000 adults, only 2% were considered divergent thinkers.

In this case “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids!” is not a Disney fantasy but a brutal fact of an education system that is currently educating students out of their creative capacities.”

I don’t think the status quo is acceptable or wise for a state that depends on, and quite frankly, desperately needs creative thinkers. Massachusetts’ innovation economy requires creative thinkers, problem solvers, entrepreneurs, writers, scientists, politicians, educators, artists. We need to nurture and cultivate creativity and diversity in all young people so they can grow up engaged in life, continually challenging themselves and each other to have original ideas that have value.

Please vote for Creativity Index legislation so we can begin the Creativity Conversation now.

√ For more information (articles, Boston Globe Editorial, and the legislation's language) about this Creativity Index legislation, go here.

√ Robinson, Sir Ken. (February 2006) Schools Kill Creativity. TED.com talk.

√ Robinson, Sir Ken. (2009) The Element. New York: Viking.

√ Robinson, Sir Ken. (2001) Out of Our Minds. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Capstone.

√ Robinson, Sir Ken. (July 14, 2005). Presentation. Education Commission of the States, 2005 National Forum of Education Policy, Chairman’s Breakfast, Denver, Colorado.

Dennis Richards
Superintendent
Retired, but still Learning & Teaching
twitter: dennisar
skype: drichards1
dennisar at gmail dot com
innovation3.edublogs.org

2 Comments

Thanks - terrific article. I loved the Ken Robinson TED Talk and use it as an introductory piece in all my work with executives around the world. I definitely believe that creativity can be taught and can be learned! My goal in my work is for my executives to re-embrace the idea that the little girl had in Robinson's talk - the one who drew the picture of god. I think that this illustrates your point that all of us are born with the creative instinct, but it is stolen from us by well-intentioned, but horribly misinformed, teachers, parents, and others. Fortunately. they always seem to leave some small pieces of it behind, and I have taken upon myself to help executives and other leaders find it once again. Keep up the good work.

This is the first time I have heard of a Creativity Index. I am familiar with the Ted talks and I have heard one or two conversations about the creativity factor. Thank you for your post and for the links. I will be reading more about this topic. I am a 1st grade teacher and I taught Kindergarten for 11 year before this. You are correct. No one ever gives a grade for creativity. We need to rethink this!!
I like the idea. Will explore more.

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