This skewed system

Published by Lori Pickert on September 9, 2011 at 05:58 PM

Schools place overwhelming emphasis on teaching children to solve problems correctly, not creatively. This skewed system dominates our first twenty years of life; tests, grades, college admission, degrees and job placements demand and reward targeted logical thinking, factual competence, and language and math skills — all purviews of the left brain. … [T]he brain is a creature of habit; using well-established neural pathways is more economical than elaborating new or unusual ones. Additionally, failure to train creative faculties allows those neural connections to wither. — neuroscientist Floyd Bloom

Creativity. Use it or lose it.

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11 comments

Comment by Jen Rothmeyer (... on September 9, 2011 at 07:11 PM

As an experiment, we have decided to let our kids go to public school for this one year. I'm not thrilled with it so far. One of the things I've been working on the most is how to increase our children's creativity after school since I know they have not been using it nearly enough during school.

I hope that I succeed.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 9, 2011 at 07:36 PM

i think what he's saying here is really interesting — that you lay in those neural pathways by driving over them again and again and again. i wonder how much creative thought you have to exercise to make solid pathways.

his implication, i think, is that if schools let kids attack their work creatively, they could accomplish everything else PLUS lay down those neural pathways for creativity. every time a kid figures out his own unique way of solving a math problem or using an art material or inventing a game or coordinating friends to do a project...

good luck with your experiment. can you say why you decided to try it? i'm really interested.

Comment by Jen Rothmeyer (... on September 9, 2011 at 07:42 PM

I definitely agree that schools should allow the kids to use creativity to solve things - they should encourage that. At what point in our life as adults are we encouraged ONLY to rote repeat things? ...I can't think of one. Even in the military where we were told what to do, we were expected to at least know how to attack a problem using creative thinking. That's why they kept giving us two boards and a piece of twine and told us to get across a huge pit!

We essentially let them go to public school because that's where my husband wants the kids to be. I don't and I have reasons. I'm showing him those reasons and he is trying to show me how my reasons are invalid. :P

Comment by amy on September 10, 2011 at 12:05 AM

Hi Jen~our older kids are in year three at a local charter school and every day I threaten to pull them, but the one thing I couldn't manage to provide when we were homeschooling was friends. So that's *my* conundrum. It's killing me a little every day to send them, especially as I don't have time to fill in all the blanks when they're at school all day. The school says it has a project-based curriculum, but it's not exactly what I expected. And I really hate the idea of the school dictating what's important to learn. I think it's deadly to a kid's spark and curiosity.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 10, 2011 at 12:55 AM

jen, ha! i've read about those military challenges!

one problem is, i believe, the scripts and schedules that teachers are given. they don't have *time* to let kids explore and deviate from the schedule .. wander off the path, as it were.

i remember telling a teacher acquaintance about my older son's "invention" of the concept of even and odd numbers when he was very small. i thought it was pure genius. she was, to put it nicely, confused by my being thrilled. it was an ordinary thing and he was doing it "wrong". maybe *some* teachers (not all, for sure) come up through their training totally investing in that "one right answer" and missing the whole point of intellectual lightning bolts of invention.

mostly, though, i think most teachers simply don't have the time to let kids play with ideas and explore them and get creative with knowledge and skills — they're on too short a leash due to standardized testing and its legacy, robotic teaching.

amy, i'm sad you feel that way about your kids' charter school. :(

i'd be interested to hear about their "project-based curriculum" and how it's not what you expected — i've visited many schools/programs and i've seen *many* things labeled as project-based.

"I really hate the idea of the school dictating what's important to learn. I think it's deadly to a kid's spark and curiosity." well, it sort of sends the message that their spark and curiosity aren't needed — which is what the quote's about, right?

Comment by amy on September 10, 2011 at 12:59 AM

Lori~I will email you instead--hope that's okay.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 10, 2011 at 01:14 AM

of course! xo

Comment by Steph on September 11, 2011 at 03:26 AM

I suspect this is true. Unfortunately our test-driven school system doesn;t leave much room for real problem solving, which often follows long, winding paths and can be messy. :)

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 11, 2011 at 01:45 PM

and requires time to try different things .. and discussion (no talking!) .. and reflection ..

after all, if you let ONE kid share their own idea, then you're going to have to let ALL the kids talk .. and then where would you be?!

Comment by Amy on September 13, 2011 at 02:54 AM

It's too bad that "correct" and "creative" seem mutually exclusive in this sense. Isn't it possible that schools could work on teaching children that most problems have many possible solutions (with trade offs for each one), or teach them that there are often many routes by which to achieve the same "right" answer?

Where did you find this quote? I'd love to read the full article/book. I love when science backs up gut instinct- like the importance of fostering creativity and creative problem solving.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 13, 2011 at 01:43 PM

there are almost always multiple ways to solve a problem. teachers have one in the back of the book and that's the one they're supposed to teach and kids are supposed to reproduce for assessment. acknowledging that you can get there another way, even if you get it, even if you appreciate it, just takes time they don't have. everyone's on a tight schedule these days. i just read about yet another school eliminating wasteful recess.

mm, i don't remember where i got the quote. :) i believe it was in one of the books i read this past week. if i figure it out, i'll post it here.

i think creativity, flexible thinking, and problem-solving are things that have to be woven through the entire curriculum. you can't just slap on an extra "creative thinking" exercise and call it good. *that* is the problem. if you can't make it part of the entire approach to thinking and learning, it's as good as useless.

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