This morning Timothy Egan wrote a provocative piece on the NY Times op–ed page. Egan laments the ubiquity of big data as it creeps into every facet of our lives, from Amazon’s aggregation of our buying habits which is used to promote those same buying habits as well as the push toward accountability in schools preoccupied with standardized test scores. Egan points out that creativity is unquantifiable and that our emphasis on numbers may be squashing it or at least ignoring it.
After reading Egan’s piece I happened upon another gem of Hannah Rosin’s in The Atlantic. (The benefits of waking up early shabbos morning- precious reading time drinking coffee before going to shul.) Rosin describes the radically different set of expectations around children’s play nowadays as opposed to our experience as children. Playgrounds used to be more adventurous, less antiseptic. Kids had time to themselves during which they could explore. Sure, that hurricane slide seemed a little more dangerous and it must be easier for a child to be abducted when he’s walking to the park by himself instead of with mom, but the cost may be much greater than any perceived benefit. Creativity, independence and risk taking are stifled.
Rosin and Egan both homed in on a real concern that educators should be mindful of. If we really think that creativity matters as much as mastery of material then shouldn’t we be promoting it more in our classrooms? I’m not claiming that we should an end to demanding excellence and high academic expectations. Keep those expectations and demands high and raise them. But let’s make sure that we think about promoting risk taking, discovery and imagination.
I’m looking forward to the new program in STEM that we’re beginning this upcoming school year. I think it’s a step in the right direction of promoting creativity and imagination.
I also raise a question for consideration regarding risk taking. Do rigorous rubrics and well-defined grades for papers discourage risk-taking and creativity? Are we setting the consequences for failure such that we discourage kids to live up to Tal Ben Shachar’s great quote: learn to fail or fail to learn.