First published on November 2011.
In the first grade my father coloured a picture of a goat in his art book with green crayon. He took care to colour within the lines as told. Still, his teacher gave him a ‘D’ because ‘goats aren’t green.’ From that point on, my father never thought of himself as an artist. We are all born creative, but by the time we’re finished with grade school, many of us have been educated out of it. We’re taught to conform and strive for perfection. For the past 150 years our education system has been based on a factory model. The Carnegie measures of seat time and standardised testing at grade level drive compliance and left-brain thinking at the expense of creativity. This may have served an industrial era workforce, but it’s efficacy fails at a time where knowledge work has become commoditised. We are at the dawn of a new conceptual economy where technical know-how is no longer sufficient. It must be complemented by things like creativity, big picture thinking, and context.
My parents encouraged me at a young age to get involved in improvisation. From improv I learned not to fear failure, but to embrace the blank canvas and to colour it in intuitively. Improv, like all the arts, allows us to connect with our authentic, creative selves and opens the path to invention. Improv has given me the inspiration and skills to navigate in this conceptual age as an entrepreneur.
The crisis in education in the U.S. Has created space for innovation and a fundamental rethinking of how our education system can meet the demands of this conceptual economy. Technological advances like digital learning (from interactive content on the iPad to the Khan Academy) make the path and pace of education more engaging and student-centered. They allow students to experiment and try different pathways to learning (be it visual, auditory, game-based, or competitive).
Arts education, not rote learning, will also empower our children with the creative skills they need to thrive in this conceptual age. Education policy and practice must keep pace with innovation and evolve to encourage experimentation over perfectionism. Great breakthroughs in social innovation for our world will emerge when barriers to creativity are unlocked. It’s happening. Grab your green crayons.
Illustrations by Paul Davis - http://copyrightdavis.blogspot.com/