The Huffington Post has begun a curated weekend program under the banner of TEDweekends. One of the featured posts this month was from Sir Ken Robinson and included a link to his 2006 TEDtalk. He notes that much of today’s education is driven by a desire for standardization, insistence on a kind of cultural compliance and an emphasis on linear and rigid thinking. He cites the urgency of educators finding alternatives, exploiting their students’ natural curiosity while encouraging the development of what he labels as their “true talents.” The original talk was a remarkable presentation and has spun off several rich threads of discussion which all flow from this post.
Creativity has been of particular interest to me since the late 1970s when it formed the basis of my doctoral dissertation. The research I conducted involved third- and fourth-grade boys and was inspired by findings suggesting that young children are naturally ‘divergent thinkers’ … they are built to explore the possibilities inherent in their emerging world. In looking at the conditions that seemed to best promote this kind of thinking, my research pointed clearly to the dramatic positive impact of modeling.
Divergent thinking is a core component of creative activity and is the antithesis of instruction that focuses on an effort to find the right answer. This “convergent thinking” also needs to be nurtured and developed, of course, but cannot become the sole, guiding purpose of our educational system. The better our teachers and educators are at demonstrating and encouraging broad and expansive thinking, the the better they’ll prepare this generation of young people to be actively and positively engaged in the complex future at our doorstep.