In Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like an Artist he explains that creativity is when we make connection between two unique ideas. For example it might be a connection between peanut butter and salami. Not two things that normally go together but when put together it may be amazing. I don’t know exactly if it is good, but my 6 year old was determined to try it today. When we are younger information and ideas are all jumbled up, they flow seamlessly from one thing to another. It is why little kids can start by asking “Why the sky is blue” and end the conversation with something unrelated like “why are unicorns always white?” But also kids are not afraid to fail. Ken Robinson states in his TED talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” “Kids will take a chance. And if they don’t know they will have a go.”
Two things happen as we get older, we start to separate the subjects and we begin to realize that failure is bad. In school subjects are separated and divided into all kinds of parts. First just Math, Science, English, but then we break those down into Chemistry, Biology, Algebra. I have students who walk into my room and their art brains turn on and they turn off all of those other classes. When I ask them a question that relates art to math, they can’t process it because they have been trained that math happens in the math room. I too was a product of this system and my thinking was divided by classes. One thing I believed for the longest time was that Columbus and Da Vinci were from very different worlds. I never realized that Columbus was sailing to America at the same time Da Vinci was creating his inventions. In my brain Columbus happened in social studies and Da Vinci in art. Our students are the same way they only think about art things in the art room, the math things in the math room, and science in the science lab, etc. Because they have segmented their minds they struggle to make connections with those other ideas. Not only are many of our student’s brains segmented into subject areas but they are also so afraid of failure that they struggle to bring those brains into our art rooms. Many of my students just want to know the exact formula for getting an A on the project and are terrified to think outside the box. Interesting side note Da Vinci and Amerigo Vespucci were both employed by the Medici’s and both from Florence, Italy. This makes it very likely that Da Vinci knew of Columbus, most likely in the same sense that we know of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.
It is not only the core teachers, or the “system” that has created the discourse in our students. Part of this is our fault as art teachers. We have spent so long arguing that our classes are just as important and valid as the “core” classes. Cindy Foley alludes to this in her TED talk “Teaching Art or Teaching to think like artists?” when she states that we as art educators have “been trying to make a case for our own existence. . .” While making this case for our own existence we have focused so heavily on “teaching adult art to children” (ix, Douglas & Jaquith) that we have separated our students from all of their own artistry. In my district this has become a culture of testing. We call these benchmark tests, they are often 10-50 multiple choice questions that often ask double negative questions to trick the students into choosing the wrong answer. These tests, vocabulary sheets, art history papers, and standardized projects are what have killed the idea generation of the students in my district.
As Ken Robinson states “We are educating people out of their creative capacities” (TED talk) However, it is obvious that the core subjects are crying out for the arts to bring back the creativity in the schools. The voices of education are yelling for teachers to include creative projects, creative lessons and creative thinking into the classroom This is evidenced by the books that are being wildly written like The Wild Card by Hope and Wade King, Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess, Creative Schools by Ken Robinson and then through the educational movements like the Google Innovators Courses and The Lab School of Washington D.C. If we as art teachers start bringing in choice into our art rooms, we may give our students the opportunity to make connections between unrelated ideas, give them a space to experience the joy of failure. This is widely hopeful theory but as Ken Robinson stated at the beginning of his infamous Ted Talk “. . . Creativity now is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.”
- “21st Century Attributes for the Art Room.” The Art of Ed, 4 Feb. 2018, www.theartofed.com/2017/01/12/63288/.
- Douglas, Katherine M., et al. Engaging Learners through Artmaking: Choice-Based Art Education in the Classroom (TAB). Teachers College Press, 2018.
- King, Hope, and Wade King. The Wild Card: 7 Steps to an Educator's Creative Breakthrough. Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc., 2017.
- Kleon, Austin. Steal like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative. Workman, 2012.
- Krysa, Danielle. Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk: and Other Truths about Being Creative. Chronicle Books, 2016.
- Rich, Elizabeth. “How Do You Define 21st-Century Learning?” Education Week, Editorial Project in Education, 19 June 2018, www.edweek.org/tsb/articles/2010/10/12/01panel.h04.html.
- Robinson, Ken.“Bring on the Learning Revolution!” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolutionutm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare.
- Robinson, Ken, and Lou Aronica. Creative Schools. Penguin Books, 2016.
- Robinson, Ken. “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativityutm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare.
- Robinson, Ken, and Lou Aronica. Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life. Penguin Books, 2014.
- Sinek, Simon. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Portfolio/Penguin, 2013.