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Karina Eisner

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What place does creativity have in education?

Almost every education related TED video available states or implies that creative thinking is at the center of the learning process and at the root of every breakthrough.
What place do we give creative thinking, free exploration, uncharted discovery in our current educational models?
Are the prevalent public education systems becoming a means to program the masses rather than a way to facilitate discovery, growth and self realization? Are students truly turned into useful citizens, or rather adults trained to respond to induced stimulus in predetermined ways, much like rats in the lab?
Are we afraid of where original thinking can bring us? Are we afraid of change? Are we afraid of losing control? How far are we ready to go to keep it? And do we really think creativity can be killed?

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WHAT? Stage 2 of this debate, do it!
HOW? Connecting, cooperating, organizing information, sharing our skills, giving ideas, encouraging, writing or blogging, creating a web page, reaching out to our own communities.
WHERE? New TED debate, Creativity in Action
WHEN? Now.

We can overcome geographical, language, age and political barriers. We can make a difference. Let's take the next step. Are you in?

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Closing Statement from Karina Eisner

This debate is closed, now what?

….......................................YOU ARE INVITED......................................

WHAT? Stage 2 of this debate, join us!
HOW? Connecting, cooperating, organizing information, sharing our skills,
giving ideas, encouraging, blogging, creating a web page, reaching
out to our own communities.
WHERE? New TED debate, here, Creativity in Action
WHEN? Now.

We can overcome geographical, language, age and political barriers. We can make a difference. Let's take the next step. Are you in?

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  • Oct 22 2011: Unfortunately, in the traditional educational system, there is not enough room for creativity, critical thinking, or usage of the brain other than for memorization. I would know because I am a student. In the traditional system, you practically have to plagerize in order to get the answeres right. You get questions were all you have to do to ansewer it is write down what it says in the text book. All you need to do to pass a test in the traditional educational system is memorize a couple of phrases in a bloody book. This is infuriating to me, especially since the first half of my life I spent in a montessori school. We are not learning, we are simply temporarily memorizing phrases.This is very dangerous and I think we need to change the educational system as soon as possible.
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      Oct 22 2011: I disagree with the general statement that in our education system "there is no room for creativity, critical thinking, or usage of the brain other than for memorization," but I do think that our system is flawed in that it does not prioritize these things.
      Take the college application process as an example. The purpose of the process is inherently to determine which students merit entrance to a given institution. This is of course not a bad thing in and of itself, but I feel that our definition of "merit" is wrong. Journalist for the New Yorker Louis Menand says in his essay "The Thin Envelope" that we define "merit" as "quantifiable aptitude and achievement." I think this concept is the crux of the problem; By upholding this limited definition, we ignore the need for creativity and passion. And, honestly, those are the more important aspects of "merit."
      In short, I think that by focusing on the quantifiable, we form an education system that ignores the qualities that make for success. We choose the best test-takers, but not the best students.
      The question that I have though is: How can we change this system?
      I don't know. I'd love to hear another's thoughts.
      • Oct 23 2011: You are right. I am going to change my comment to "...there is not enough room for creativity,critical thinking, or usage of the brain other than for memorization".
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        Oct 23 2011: Cleo, thanks for sharing your views here!

        You take a good, long look into the situation with college application. While I essentially agree, I have to say that creativity is already taken into account, not all is GPA.
        Leadership inside, and particularly out of school, and participation in (or creation of) clubs or service groups are clear indicators of creativity and weigh heavily in college admission. If the track is in art, design, or performing arts, a portfolio or CD is required. So, there is room there to show creativity. But what remains is a standard to measure it. Where does the admission committee draw the line, and where does the next college's committee draw theirs?
        As you say, the system is flawed and can be improved.

        "The question that I have though is: How can we change this system?
        I don't know. I'd love to hear another's thoughts." Me too!
        I encourage you to stay in touch as we find areas that we can improve, and put ideas into action. It is good to stimulate the flow of ideas, but we can do more. We can BE the difference.

        Food for thought for you: What could you do, right there, where you are? Columbia University, a pillar of education, sits at the edge of two very different worlds. Is education the same in both sides of the "border"? Do you see any needs there?
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          Oct 23 2011: Karina,

          I'd like to share my perspective on the comment "creativity is already taken into account, not all is GPA. Leadership inside, and particularly out of school, and participation in (or creation of) clubs or service groups are clear indicators of creativity and weigh heavily in college admission."

          It depends on the college. Some do not have the capacity/desire to consider non-quantifiable criteria. Such criteria requires a considerable amount of time and judgment and opens the admissions process to criticism. Some schools invest in assessing non-quantifiables.

          Leadership and participation in service organizations may or may not reveal creativity and commitment. As a volunteer interviewer of applicants to my alma mater, I am dismayed by the superficial nature of their involvement. At first glance, their application seems impressive - President of Interact, VP of Leo Club, etc. But when pressed to describe the nature of their work and how decisions were made, usually what emerges are sinecures (distribution of bottled water to walkers for a walk-a-thon, sorting of folders for an office, etc.). The other type are what I call "fly-by philanthropy". Their parents spend $6,000 to send them to a developing country to build a school for two weeks. Their motivation seemed to have been to impress college admissions officers first and to serve the developing community second. And sometimes their 2-week's work actually caused more trouble than good in their target beneficiary community.

          So participation in leadership and service positions at the high school level do not necessarily reflect passion, creativity, commitment and do not necessarily weigh heavily in the admissions process. In my experience, the vast majority of strong applicants boast a plethora of such experiences in the applications and the admissions team need to scrutinize carefully to discern the authentic experiences that reflect creativity, passion, commitment.

          Best regards,

          Peter
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        Oct 23 2011: Peter,
        My opinions on creativity in the college application process are first hand, as my children have applied, visited and interviewed many universities. We started that process 2 years prior to graduation, and in many cases met representatives and had phone conversations regarding specifics. In all of them, I verified their requirements and preference for activities in areas beyond curriculum and GPA.
        But I agree, it probably depends on which university.

        My kids were brought up very much in the spirit of "Emotional IQ" (the book) to hold values, and be self motivated, listen to themselves and try their best. It really works when parents are on board, so when the moment came they had good opportunities at top universities (regardless of parents income, I am a teacher!) If you ask me, they are overachievers, and I'd slow down if I were in their place. But this is not my generation, they were born at a faster pace and are comfortable handling a triple major, juggling 2 universities, speaking 5 languages and visiting family in 7 countries...

        I am not surprised to hear that you found "resume padding" in the applicants to your alma mater, but the fact that you spotted them before acceptance shows that your school cared about authentic service... Well done, Mr Han!
        The universities that my children chose continue to foster creativity and encourage them to explore and be trend setters. One of them, which you know well:-), even has open curriculum!

        One example of assignment my FRESHMAN has: she was given $10,000 to spend on a service-based project anywhere in the world. The catch: she needs to present a solid assessment and "business plan", plus a strong emotional appeal. She competes with 10 kids, and gets the whole summer to travel and make it work if she wins (they cover her expenses too)

        Now that is trust, creativity, and community service if you ask me.
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      Oct 23 2011: Alonso,
      The Montessori system is very in tune with developmental needs and inner aptitudes and motivation. Although in the US most Montessori schools are private, some public districts have adopted it in a few schools. However, in most of those cases students eventually transition to mainstream schools in the later years.
      The contrast can be terrible, I feel your pain. After given all authority to pace your studies and develop a learning style, and just when you get to a culminating point, that is all taken away from you. You get placed in a classroom with a fixed curriculum, schedule and calendar year, your seat is assigned and the expectations are pre-set. Instruction is usually uniform for all, as is the expected production/results.
      Cookie cutter education does not sit well with Montessori...

      In your case, I think you are lucky to see beyond the everyday routine in your current school because of your previous experience. This gives you great insight. I wonder if you could use this as an opportunity to change, maybe not the whole system, but a few things around you.
      But why not, if you strongly think the whole system is wrong, why not think of something totally new and better. That is, after all, what Maria Montessori did.

      She believed that each child is born with a unique potential to be revealed, and that the school environment (including teachers) should continually observe the child and adapt so that s/he may fulfill his or her greatest potential. Not bad for the 19th century, eh? So how can we improve on that 200 years later?
      • Oct 23 2011: In order to get closer to the ideal educational system, I think there is a lot of work to be done both for the teachers and by the teachers. Teachers need to be taught more about how the child's brain works and about sensory integration (especially in developing countries such as my dearest Mexico. There is a greatly insufficient amount of knowledge about sensory integration in Mexico and in most of Latin America for that matter). If they know our minds and if they know that every single child is unique, they will be able to teach much more efficiently. They also need to be motivated a lot more so that they, in turn, can be motivational and enthusiastic when teaching. I personally think there is nothing worse than a teacher who is less excited about teaching than your average student would be about writing a three page report on a history topic. Teachers also need to be trained better. I have one particular teacher who seems as if he is learning the topic along with us instead of teaching us, and I am sure there are many more of the sort.

        I also believe we need to get rid of grades, or at least drastically change how they work. Grades, in my opinion, do not reflect the intelligence of a child. They merely show how good a child does in the educational system. There are many bright children with learning problems such as dyslexia or ADD who seem to be much less intelligent than they truly are because they can't learn properly in this particular system. I also believe standardized tests need to be changed somehow. I do not doubt that there are some brilliant children out there who do not do very well on these tests due to their structure.
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          Oct 23 2011: Your points are all good, Alonso, are you sure you are not an education reformer under cover?

          While we put all the big picture ideas on the pile of big picture to-do list, what do you see in your immediate surroundings that you can change?
          Any way you can contribute to make things better? Do students have any role in this lack of motivation they see in teachers?
          Can they come up with activities/meetings/print outs that encourage kids, expose them to innovation, and foster creativity among students?
          Is there one thing you see near you that you could improve today (or this week)? Can you make a plan?
          Stay in touch and look for chapter II of this debate...

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