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(De)Grading Creativity

It might seem blasphemous to suggest that the Arts don't teach creativity. But, they don't. People often express their creativity through the Arts, but, that's not teaching creativity. Simply painting or playing music, or being a good drawer doesn't mean one is necessarily creative, nor does doing Math or learning to program computers necessarily suggest one is without creativity. If one believes that the Arts do teach creativity, or teach it better than Math or Science, that is most likely a result that the Arts are considered 'fluff' in our system, and therefore the detrimental and stifling psychological damage of being (de)graded in Art, are not as severe as the detrimental aspects inherent in Math grading or Science grading, thus, we can risk a bit more in the Arts. Whatever the reasons, the teaching of creativity is extremely difficult. It is difficult because the system must allow the student to oppose the authority that is defining what is status quo. Though it is possible to demand subjugation and demand creativity at the same time, it is ridiculous to do so. In order for our current system to give anything more than lip service to the teaching of creativity, it will have to change. Either that, or, accept that the creative people will drop out, as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did, or simply cease to be creative, which is what many lawyers tell me they chose.

In his introduction to the excellent book, “Creativity: Its Educational Implications,” J.C. Gowan comments under the subheading of “[creativity as the] Opposite of Authoritarianism:”
“It is perfectly obvious that teachers have a great deal to do with a child’s past successes, the availability of prestige, the control of authoritarianism, the types of evaluation and the climate which encourage risk-taking in search of creativity. Oftentimes they subtly discourage children completely.”
How many students learn to hate Art? Learn to hate problem solving? Learn to hate their teacher? Are they actually protecting their creative potential through their opposition to authoritarianism in order to survive in a world where their “character integration between conscious mind and its preconscious areas” are being subjected to humiliation and degradation? It is interesting that very few well educated people hang their own paintings in their homes. It is also interesting that despite,(or is it because of) years of choral lessons we do not sing as adults. Is our whole process of education, whether teaching through the Arts or teaching Art, or teaching in a traditional method, the antithesis of teaching for creativity?

In his article, Ten Ways of Helping Young Children Gifted In Creative Writing and Speech, E. Paul Torrance (of the "Torrance Creative Thinking Test") states under the sub heading of “Love Them and Let Them Know It.”:

"Children will never reveal their intimate imaginings unless they feel that they are loved and respected…. I like to call it the creative relationship because it operates so much like the creative thinking process."

Here creative expression, or creative product, is a result of love while creative relationship is synonymous in meaning with “loving” relationship! Torrance is stating that we can’t have excellence in creative thinking without having loving and respectful relationships between teacher and student. This implies that in order to be successful in teaching creativity teachers will have to establish intimately caring relationships with students. The Teacher’s ability to develop intimate and respectful relationships within the classroom will directly affect the students ability to reach the potentiality of their creativity.
Is a desire for love and respect the reason for the prevalence of the use of the word Creativity in educational literature? Is it that as children we have experienced loving relationships as tied to our own creative acts, and now as caring adults, as parents and guardians and as teachers, we wish for our children to have loving relationships, and therefore we search for creativity in schools because we know (from our own experience) that if creativity is "truly" being taught, learned and expressed, then there is love and respect present? In a society where roughly half of all marriages end in divorce, are we turning to the schools to provide loving and respectful relationships for our children? It may seem more sane and less desperate for parents to ask schools to teach “creativity” than asking schools to mandate loving relationships, or it may just be the same thing.
As we move forward in order to begin this teaching of Creativity in our schools, those who understand the implications of this evolution, have much to be concerned about. A fundamental element of teaching for creativity is to recognize that to grade creativity is to destroy it.