26 July 2012

Creativity. Within the Box.

One of my colleagues at Jackson Classical sent me this video earlier today.

 You should watch it. 


The conclusion from this should not be to fore go great (classical) educations, but, rather, to, along the way, allow for and encourage ways of learning that are not traditional.  Classical and traditional, after all, are two different words that would benefit from non-conflation. 

I found myself this past school year calling out spelling words to a certain little boy while he sat in a tree in the front yard.  I cringed the whole time.  I hate it. 

I'm the academic, disembodied type of whom he speaks.  I'm so disembodied a lot of the time that I literally do not notice my body.  I break things, run into things, burn myself, and all manner of other physical ridiculousness. 
But, to be great educators, we must educate the children God creates, not the ones we project on to them.  So, I cannot project onto my children my make up. 

It seems to me, though, that we must also fight the two ditches here.   One of my favorite pastors talks often of the two ditches of things.  He's usually talking theology, but it applies, oh, everywhere.  Culinarily, relationally, and most definitely educationally. [Can we tell what I do all day?  Cook, relate and educate...]

The first ditch, when reexamining the concepts of traditional learning and creativity, is to do this atrocious, Montessori on meth all the way to college, "Let the children express themselves" bull butter.  In the fight to get outside the box, educators and parents burn the box.

Steiner/Waldorf and Montessori methods of education have been hijacked and turned into hippie free-for-alls that let the children direct education to their own detriment.  Arts are emphasized, yes, and then no one learns to read books.  Or sit still.  Or do things that people, who interact in a civilized society, should learn to do. 

Gillian Lynne, of whom Sir Robinson speaks in the video, though she's a dancer, has to sit still all the time.   If no where else, worship requires some attention.  So, the idea, that because he's a dancer or a different thinker or a fidgeter, or what have you, little Johnny shouldn't have to sit still, or, worse, cannot be expected to be able to sit still, is tragic.  Get a life, shave your legs, wear a bra and behave, people.


Yes, right.


The other ditch....
Into which we disembodied academics who (rightly) react to that ditch so readily fall.

That's what ditches are.  Reactions.  See, the hippie Montessory Steiner gone wrong folks are all just reacting to the 19th century Victorian educational traditionalists who said if you cannot sit still and do your times tables then poo poo on you.  And...then.... we react right back!

We say, "Well, that's bollucks.  Of course  you must learn your times tables."  And you must.  And we say, "Everyone should read the classics, see."  And they should.  And we say, "Really, you must learn to sit still, Eason."  And he should. 

However, we fall into this ditch of thinking that times tables coming easily makes you a better person than dancing coming easily.  And, if through God's grace, we make ourselves stop short of "better person" we cannot help but say "better student". 

This past year, at school, I had the privilege of teaching a slew of children.  In the spring, they all took standardized tests.  I had thoughts about different abilities, in different areas, of different children prior to the tests.  These thoughts, after examining the test results, were in some ways confirmed and in many ways challenged.  I know some of these children to be quite bright.  But in the ways that we traditionally measure "brightness" (whatever that ineffable quality is), they don't always appear that way on paper. 

College Professor type learners - general academicians - are awesome. 

But, there are many other kinds and expressions of brilliance. 

We must avoid the ditches:  Require conformity to some level of "Everyone needs to learn x and behave in this realm of normalcy" while at the same time allowing for learning modes and styles that acknowledge the diversity of intelligence. 

You must learn to spell.  But if you can do it in a tree (and that doesn't disrupt our other parts of life/learning- an important! caveat!), then, by all means, climb, child, climb.  And, if you want to dance while you recite Latin words, do so. 

Creativity can be achieved - within some sort of box.  We don't have to sacrifice excellence to allow for growth.  In fact, we cannot.

 It will be an interesting experiment - one we're engaged in fully at Jackson Classical - to see if we can strike the balance.  Dance our way through the Western Cannon.  We cannot do it because dancing is sweet, or because we're scared of failing at the excellent stuff. 

But we can and should do it because all the research (and results) of intelligence are telling us that out-of-the box thinkers, who can learn to function in the box, are the makers of the future. 

[This has exhausted my educational philosophy mental resources for the summer quarter of 2012.   Off to the swimming pool.]

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