May 19, 2010

Art Revolution (in the spirit of Jamie Oliver).

Are Schools Killing Creativity? Sir Ken Robinson

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution was a chilling look at the state-sanctioned junk food we have been feeding our children in America. In three months, an energetic, passionate chef from Britain made deep inroads into the supremely heart-clogging, processed food habits of ‘the unhealthiest town in America,’ sparking a glimmer of optimism for the health of our nation’s children.

Sir Ken Robinson is my Jamie Oliver. What Sir Ken lacks in celebrity, he provides in substance. He believes that our children are in trouble; that our schools are doing children a disservice by favoring convergent thinking. He believes that creativity should be taught with the same vigor as the basics; reading, writing and math.

What is missing in our schools is a deep appreciation and support for the creative process. Regular engagement in the creative process stimulates rich child development, and will provide nourishing, and innovative answers to our global dilemmas in the same way that fresh, healthy foods will nourish our growing children.

In his book Cities and the Creative Class, Richard Florida discusses three main prerequisites of creative cities; Talent, Tolerance and Technology. Art and creative explorations foster all three. Creative cities are important, he argues, because they are economic and intellectual hubs of activity and growth.

We need an Art Revolution inspired by Jamie Oliver and Sir Ken Robinson. Why not start at home? Boulder certainly doesn’t qualify as the ‘least creative city in America.’ On the contrary, by Richard Florida’s definition, we might even meet the prerequisites for one of the most creative cities (at least according to the New York Times). But there’s no place like home.

I’d start by tossing the tests. Standardized tests are an ineffective measure of what children know, and a waste of precious time. I’d replace the tests with portfolio evaluation – a multi-layered and holistic assessment tool that requires children to engage in goal setting, creative expression and problem solving.  Second, I’d hire an art teacher for every school. Once a week art classes teach creativity as effectively as once a week reading classes teach children to read. Finally, I’d get out the paints (mess be damned), set up the art space (or art corners, or folding card tables), and start making stuff.

Let the Revolution begin!

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Diana Mercer  |  Contribution: 3,740