Monday, April 9, 2012


One of the biggest trade offs that has become a casualty in all the recent attempts at school reform is creativity for literacy. In some ways they might be considered the same thing, but in light of the corporate crusade against public education, they most assuredly are not. Pablo Picasso once said that all children are born artists, and that the problem is to remain one as we grow older. I've seen this many times in many ways. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it's the chief reason I went into teacher education: to give permission to hold onto creativity in curriculum.
For any educator, the opposite of creativity is de-skilling. That, perhaps, is the most odious thing hiding behind all the well-intended politicians and non-educator corporate types. It's about control. When creativity is reinforced and encouraged the air of oppression lifts. With that comes all the intrigue, all the enjoyment, all the fun, and all the realization that you are beginning to do what you hoped you'd be able to do. Project-based curriculum, which is often the first creative ting to go, lets students think deeply, work through conflicts and contradictions, make decisions, and learn about the consequences of the choices they made. What e preparation for the future is there? Certainly not measurable bits of information.
I still marvel at the use of the term creative writing. All writing is creative writing, isn't it? In a wonderful, if not dense essay, Cynthia Ozick states the case for the poor misaligned essay. Her "Portrait of the Essay as a Warm Body" gives the essay its due. And how did we get to such a place? I'd venture a guess. All the emphasis on quantifying human learning. All the evaluation...over evaluation. All the emphasis on correctness tends to make Jack and Jill rather dull when you get right down to it. Oh I know the grammar Nazis are just waiting to pounce, but believe me when I tell you, once the creativity is scared out of a young mind, it seldom returns.

In the constant battle between structure and voice in writing, you know where my line in the sand is drawn. But that doesn't mean both aren't equal partners. They are. They just have to be approached differently. Hopefully the spotlight will find its way into the dark corner that seems to be reserved for the joy of teaching. As Sir Ken Robinson, the noted British educator likes to point out who knows what things will be like for students today in five years? What will they need to learn to be successful in the world of 2040? If by then that inborn creativity is in tact let's hope that some of the kids we taught have remained artists and many more will have the opportunity to do so.

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