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CREATIVITY, CRITICAL THINKING and CONTENT

September 4, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

 I divide each Social Studies unit into content and conceptual mastery, analysis and creative interpretation because public education, has three core objectives:

1. To impart a body of knowledge and academic skills deemed valuable by society.

2. To teach the students to think analytically, critically and independently.

3. To render the students capable of discovering original insights and pursuing the discovery of new knowledge or invention.

The first goal  has been delved into depth by educational researchers and gurus like E.D. Hirsh of “Cultural Literacy” fame, Chester Finn, William Bennett, Diane Ravitch and others, and is reflected in such legislation as NCLB, which has put tremendous pressure on school districts to focus on test scores in a few basic subjects and expanding the amount of content in the curriculum by increasing the time spent on rote memorization exercises and skill-based drills. Breadth but not depth.

The second goal is reflected in what used to be termed ” liberal education” or “Great Books” programs or the upper tiers of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Schools do this less effectively across the nation but there is still a fair emphasis on eliciting critical thinking in public education, most of all in Honors and AP classes, gifted and talented classes  and special programs like and Paideia and International Baccalaureate. Colleges and universities, of course, are also intended to focus on liberal education but the degree to which this is true in practice has declined since the 1960’s.

The final objective, made possible by the teaching of creative thinking and synthesis to students, public education does not do well at all at present, here or in any industrialized nation, where measurable declines in the creativity and problem-solving abilities of k-12 students appear across the board. Some people even consider creative thinking to be inimical to mastering content or logical analysis; this is untrue. One cannot think creatively or engage in analysis without content knowledge and content is itself meaningless unless the student can effectively put it to use in the real world. Content knowledge, critical thinking and creativity are like the three legs of a stool – our students need them all.

Ken Robinson, noted educational expert, giving a lively talk on creativity and public education ( 20 minute video clip):

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  1. August 26, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Wow, very nicely put. I love that last sentence “Content knowledge, critical thinking and creativity are like the three legs of a stool – our students need them all.” And it really is a shame that people see creativity as being potentially harmful. But I can see where they are coming from- it’s easy to look at the production of off the wall and radical and just plain old different ideas as being a deviation from productivity and a waste of time. But I think that the real problem is that the process needs to be adhered to in order to produce the desired result; a quality idea that solves your most prominent problem that has action steps behind it to be implemented ASAP. That’s where we come in.

    My name is Stephen Harwick and I work for the Creative Education Foundation (CEF). Here at CEF we promote the expansion of deliberate Creative Problem Solving (CPS); a technique that was created in the 1940s by Alex Osborn. Osborn was the inventor of brainstorming; which may be surprising for most to hear, and he set the groundwork for the science behind and the understanding of creativity (and he also founded our company).
    The CPS process has been honed and expanded upon over the years and validated by the research of Dr. Sidney J. Parnes and other top scientists in a variety of related fields. It is CEF’s mission to promote deliberate creativity to everyone and anyone to use in the personal and professional lives. Creativity isn’t for a select few- it is useful and applicable to everyone. If you want more information on the process or our organization please feel free to visit our website at: http://www.creativeeducationfoundation.org/ .

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