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Roots of Creativity



The Arts are still fighting a losing battle.

With all the concrete evidence from the last few decades proving that exposure to the creative Arts enhances a student's ability to measurably perform in all other areas of school, we are still seeing the Arts struggle to grow or even gain a foothold in K-12 school systems.

Perhaps you've heard my rant on this topic before. The "civilians", those in our communities who are not art producers but rather art consumers, live in a world where a decision to participate in the Arts tends to be a made when one has some free time and free funds. Leisure time. Fun things to do that may, once in a while, involve some thinking. This means the Arts are truly competing with anything and everything that can fill leisure time.

Meanwhile, the Arts professionals are out there claiming that the public should be involved in the Arts (attending and supporting) "because the Arts are good for you"! Much like eating broccoli, which is good for me, I'm not convinced that's how I want to spend my time.

This weak messaging about the importance of the Arts is furthered when discussing why the Arts should be thriving in our schools. I believe we are not winning this argument due to cultural perceptions of the arts as optional...something to do when you have time and money...something not of primary importance. We set the tone for this valuation of the Arts as an optional add-on when we say to our children things like, "Yes, you can take band class, but be sure to get your work done first." Band is secondary compared to STEM learning...the REAL work.

In Sparks of Genius: The 13 Thinking Tools of the World's Most Creative People (available here from Amazon), a book by Robert Root-Bernstein and Michèle Root-Bernstein, the authors outline the similarities found in creative thinking... whether you are an improvisational jazz trumpeter or a nuclear scientist.

The tangible links between creativity and transcendent, inter-disciplinary education become clear in this exploration of the creative thinking process. The same thinking that problem-solves and invents also creates masterpieces of music, art, dance, architecture, literature, spoken word...you name it. (It's just that the art, once created, never really has to DO anything...think Art for Art's sake)

I think we can all agree that before we can teach someone to build an airplane, they must learn to use a screwdriver. The creative process, however, speaks about something that while tangible, is not thought of as motor skills. Our practice of creative thinking can be trained, just like learning how to use a tool, and follow a path to revelation, innovation, and success.The Arts are the means to help young people learn to use their imagination. Once the imagination is stoked, creativity follows and then problem-solving becomes possible. People with imagination become entrepreneurs who innovate.

The applications of an imaginative population are wide and far reaching. From a scientist visualizing how a new drug might interact with our body's cells to a young child caught up in challenging family situation imagining life can be better, the Arts in all its forms are the vehicle to help imagination thrive.


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