I’m going to be dramatic and say that my heart broke today. It wasn’t in the romantic sense or the grief-stricken sense, but from pure disappointment. My heart broke when I heard classmates attempting to justify the idea of not needing to teach creativity in the classroom.
Let me give you some quick backstory.
I am currently in school to become a secondary Fine Arts teacher. My summer courses contain a lot of discussion around different curriculums and techniques taught within our classrooms, and how we expect our students to learn and grow.
Today’s discussion was on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) teaching and standards – which some consider to be core standards for student learning. We were then asked to consider the implications of adding “Art” to the acronym and changing it to STEAM. Having done our required reading the night before, Danah Henriksen’s article, “Full STEAM Ahead: Creativity in Excellent STEM Teaching Practices”, I expected an excellent discussion on how fantastic an idea it is to recognize ART as a valuable skill. And oh, I was so disappointed.
More than a few students argued that adding “creativity” into the classroom puts students at risk of not acquiring jobs in the future. Some pointed out that if we did this, we would have to justify this decision with parents and expect stern repercussions for potentially hindering their child’s chances at an education. Several people pointed out that employers don’t want creative thinkers – they want employees that know how to stick to standards and regulations. Not to mention, there are those of us that learn better through strict memorization, regurgitation, and logic – freedom to demonstrate learning in an abstract way can be overwhelming.
Is this for real? Is this ACTUALLY how people see art and creativity? I understand that everyone has their own way of learning, and then expressing that newly obtained knowledge can be seen in a variety of ways, but I have never heard of creativity stifling someone’s growth.
When did “art” become a dirty word in education?
My stomach flinches at the thought of it.
I’ve come to the conclusion that there must be a misconception on what “art” means. I mean, I don’t think students would learn a whole lot about physics if they were only asked to explore their mathematical findings through interpretive dance. History lessons probably wouldn’t stick too hard if I asked my students to do an abstract painting to summarize World War II. I see the value in memorization (in moderation) and in logical, predictable approaches. I’m still learning, but I can appreciate that may be the best way for some students and for some lessons.
But being creative does not mean creating art. Being creative is being a problem-solver. Think outside the box, explore what you don’t know, explore what you do know, challenge what you are being told, and take risks! It takes creativity for a sales person to calm down an irate customer; it takes creativity to figure out how to fill your car up with camping gear; it can even take creativity to decide how to make your bed – and if it doesn’t, that’s okay too!
I think the reason my heart broke today was that I can’t understand holding back an opportunity for such a valuable tool in life. It’s like learning how to grow a garden – imagine you are taught how to plant, where to plant and how to grow amazingly healthy and happy fruits, vegetables, and flowers. You’ve got mad gardening skills now. If someone wanted to show you how to arrange the plants so that the colours looked nice together, the baskets could be built to create a quiet reading space, or how to recycle junk into functional art – would you turn them down? I wouldn’t because learning is awesome, and I don’t believe that learning more cancels out what I’ve learned already.
I’m putting this out into the universe because I believe it fiercely. Being innovative, creative, critical and, dare I say, artistic – does not make a bad employee or a poor student. It is not a superpower that can be put in the wrong hands and used for bad – it’s a tool for happiness and autonomy.