Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Creativity Matters

Eric Liu is onto something.

"We are in the midst of a failure of imagination in public schools," said Liu, the former speechwriter for President Clinton and current member of the State Board of Education.

On Oct. 30, Liu gathered together more than 150 teachers, principals, superintendents, business leaders, legislators and philanthropists for "Creativity Matters: Teaching Creativity/Transforming Education," a summit was designed to address the value of creativity in public education. As he noted in the day's opening remarks, "Play, discovery, exploration are at the very heart of what it means to be an educator." Unfortunately, Liu asserted, many schools are depleting the very areas that may inspire student learning at a time when there is so much pressure to improve.

The day long session, held at the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts in Tacoma, was an offshoot of Washington Learns, Gov. Gregoire's education task force. For the next 12 months, Liu and colleagues will wage a campaign to support an infusion of creativity in schools. AWSP's Gary Kipp is a member of the steering committee for the event and future initiatives. Said Liu of the effort:
"A lot of things can get outsourced to other places at a cheaper cost... but a state and people's capacity for creativity cannot. Creativity matters because it is at the heart of what we are as a community...Creativity is no some magic fairy dust that is sprinkled around to some and not others. It can be reduced down to a set of habits that can be taught in the way we teach, in the way we lead."
These five habits of mind are:
  1. Observing intently - Creativity begins with observing intently and deeply noticing.
  2. Taking risks - Reckoning with the possibility of failure.
  3. Persisting - Developing the capacity for resilience
  4. Recognizing patterns
  5. Making connections
You can read the case Liu and others have made for creativity in schools here. Also, it's worth noting that Liu's group has partnered with the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. Until recently, only New York public schools have been eligible for the Center's Imagination Award for teaching practices that encourage imaginative thinking across the curriculum. As a result of this partnership, middle and high schools in Washington state will also be eligible for the award.

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