The children of today are known as the iGeneration, armed with their iPads and iPods and geared towards information and knowledge, yet they have no iDeas – as a speaker at a recent international education conference noted, “The kids of this generation have no idea how to have an idea.” If that is so, then we (teachers and parents) have not enabled our children to think creatively.
BY TIM MIDDLETON
Albert Einstein, the celebrated mathematician and scientist, interestingly spoke of the importance of creativity in education when he wrote that, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. Knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be.” Creativity, the cousin of curiosity, has sadly gone missing in today’s society.
Many adults will claim quickly that they are not creative people; we will argue that artists are creative people but scientists and businessmen are not. We think creativity is a gift reserved for a few. However, the same Einstein answered such thoughts when he said that “To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.” Real advance in science needs creativity. Let us not be fooled or dulled into thinking that creativity is confined to the arts.
Sportsmen need to be creative; many do not know how to create space on an already crowded sports field, either for themselves or for their team-mates. They do not know how to move the opposition to create a different space to what is currently in existence. They have no idea how to have an idea, to overcome a drilled, strong defence. No wonder we have raised a generation that has no idea how to have an idea.
The teacher (and the parent is the teacher as well) is meant to “awaken joy in creative expression”. Creativity is meant to be expressed but the problem is we limit how things may be expressed. Society today now expresses itself with emoticons and emojis, instead of words, taking us back to the times of the Pharaohs with our current emojis resembling their hieroglyphics! Society encourages us to express our love by flowers, maybe even by chocolates, perfume or wine, but why can it not be expressed by a welding machine or a container of fuel? Society limits creative expression to words, music and painting but forgets that photography, dance, sport, buildings, gardens are equally good ways of expressing our thoughts and feelings; society forgets that clothes, hair styles and facial movements all express something creatively. You can even “say it best”, as an old song goes, “when you say nothing at all”.
We are meant to “awaken joy in creative expression” but sadly, we do the opposite. We do not allow youngsters to express themselves creatively; we do not want our girls to play rugby or our boys to do ballet. We say what they must think and say and do, whether we are teachers or politicians. We do not want flair in our sports teams as it can upset the tactical systems being used. Children are naturally creative (think how many live in imaginary worlds and draw things as they see them) but with our “rules” (“that is not how it works”) we beat it out of them. As many educationists have noted, we suck all creativity out of children instead of liberating and equipping them with it.
The obvious point is that if we as teachers and parents are to awaken that joy in creative expression in our children, then we ourselves have to have had that joy awakened in our own creative expression; we need to be creative with our children. We have created a wonderful, unique child, without too much difficulty, so now we must enable and empower that unique child to develop their own creativity – we must not create another “us”. We are to help them create their own future.
Henry Thomas Buckle said: “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” Let us discuss ideas.
The world is calling out for entrepreneurs; presidents are asking people to create their own jobs. Yet society is training people for prescribed jobs and universities. So, here is an idea – consider not sending your child to university or training them to be a doctor or accountant. Come up with a new idea, a new way of looking at your child. Create space for your child to create her own space so she can express herself with joy.
Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools and author of the book on “failure” called Failing to Win.