Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A guy walks into a bar...

and he says, "There is much talk about reinventing the education model to cater more for creativity in the arts, etc. But can this really ever work in modern society?" I reply "Heck no. Art is what people do when they are too dumb to understand math and science. Focusing on art to improve education is like raising the limbo stick to 6' high because some people can't limbo. Now focusing on creativity in general makes a great deal of sense. You can be creative with regard to ideas and reasoning I hope you know I am half kidding. Or maybe 33%."

He replies, "I like your sense of humour. So how do we teach creativity within the current education model?"

I take a quick look around to make sure I didn't accidentally sit down at a gay bar. Looks okay so I guess he isn't hitting on me. So this is how I respond:

I think that Socrates had the optimal approach to teaching creativity - teach by asking students problems that they have almost enough knowledge to answer, thus encouraging thought and discussion. The focus of education should be on learning to solve problems and learning not to fear research and collaboration.

The problem is that this approach requires more intelligent and highly skilled teachers, and the current educational system in the U.S. is almost completely incapable of attracting these people. I did the coursework for a M.A. in Teaching and by my last semester and practicuum it has become obvious to me that I could not survive and flourish in the repressive intellectual and political environment that is the U.S. public school system. I was in a top 10 graduate education program and literally every intelligent student had dropped out by the 5th year - leaving the dregs.

I have discussed this problem at length with many teachers and academics, and there is a consensus that if salaries for teachers and administrators were doubled and then kept current with professional salaries (engineering, nursing, accounting, etc) that the educational system would attract better people and would over time become quite professional. It would take 20 years though.

No one seems to have the stomach to do this. Until the 60s, teaching was the only real job a smart woman could have, and this "captive audience" meant that the profession could pay poorly and still attract good people. Now that women have the same options as men, no one smart and creative stays in teaching. Paying teachers poorly was sexist to begin with, and now it is a relic.


Res said...

Saw your "call to read," @ Blogger share~~liked the "catchy headline," btw.

I'm glad I dropped in to take a look. You're a teacher??

Definite, cool beans!..I'll be back to read.

Cheers, and welcome. You're off to a great start.


Cito said...

Great Blog, enjoyed reading.


LiteraryTorsion said...

Very interesting points. I agree completely about teaching math and science before art without denying the value of art.

You've definitely got a new reader. I hope to see you over at as well. I know, shameless plug.

Poom said...

Very interesting blog.
I'll be back to read, too.
if you don't mind

Adam said...

Hi Res. I'm not a teacher. I did the coursework and a semester of student teaching, but found the experience so repressive that I decided not to enter the profession. The sad thing is the kids were great and I loved teaching. But dealing with the over-politicized and horrifically incompetent environment created by the other "professionals" turned me off. I've been working for myself ever since.

Gregory A. Becerra said...

I'd like to challenge your perception of what art really is as I notice you poke at it every so often.

Intelligence means a lot to many different people. Mainly because stupid people don't know what it is. Simply put, it is the ability to form thought and then to communicate it. You cannot have one without the other.

Idiot savants can form very complex thoughts but their communicative skills suck. Likewise, an eloquent communicator may not have anything intelligent to say. The U.S. education system unfortunately tends to teach people to become one or the other. We need both.

Math and science teaches us how to form thoughts. Art teaches us to communicate.

All art is only a conveyed expression of an artist's perception of a subject. In other words, art is some guy/gal telling us that this is how he/she perceives a particular subject matter.

The bad rep art often has with people is probably due to academics trying to justify their existence by categorizing art ad nauseam. I'm being slightly unfair to academics because their work is sometimes useful, but often they distract from the simplicity and beauty of communication.

Art is no different than these blogs we create. It is an individual's attempt to convey to his/her species the thoughts that are forming inside him/her. Therefore our education system needs art and should revive the many dead art programs. It will spark new ways of thinking and help scientists communicate more effectively.