Niel DePont

Isn’t the ultimate goal of all education developing intelligence and the capacity for creative problem solving and communication, rather than the recitation of disconnected facts that so often passes as proof of an education, or worse yet, of intelligence?

Do we learn arithmetic for the sole purpose of being able to repeat certain algorithms on command? No. We learn it to be able to use it as a tool to serve some purpose. If we are to be an intelligent society then we must accept what educator Howard Gardner once said:

“Intelligence is the flexible use of knowledge for the purpose of creating an effective response to a problem or a challenge that will benefit society.”

Therefore the question arises, should developing language and mathematical expertise be the primary focus of our public education system? And does the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) lead to the type of intelligence that Gardner alludes to in the quote above?  Is it the only, or even the best, way to get there?

I believe that the point of all education is to teach for the flexible and creative use of knowledge through real world inquiry and project based education. I believe wholeheartedly in the idea of making new work (i.e. creating a product in any discipline) to train the mind.

In creative problem solving specifically, I support:

•    using strategic, disciplined thinking to perceive and analyze the elements of the task at hand;
•    exploring and forming connections between these elements;
•    experimenting with potential solutions—skillfully using the tools of your profession to transform or vary the ideas of others (learned through collaboration) or to create something completely original; and ultimately,
•    composing an outcome through one’s creative efforts that is viable, effective, useful and, hopefully, inspirational to the receiver of that outcome.

For when the outcome is inspirational, a creative response to that outcome may be fostered in the receiver, and a cycle of creativity perpetuated forever.

I am not saying that the CCSS does not allow for this type of creative problem solving. What I am saying is that it limits the disciplines through which creative problem solving can be taught and places an emphasis on the teaching of English language arts and mathematics that is out of proportion to the diverse interests of the student population and the overall career options of the society as a whole.

The advantage in transferring the type of creative and critical thinking that is found when making works of art to other disciplines goes well beyond striving for efficiencies in education or creating a superior workforce, assuming you teach for that transfer.

Its real value is found in creating a way of looking at the world: each opportunity; each problem; each encounter with another discipline or another human being in such a way that the promise of exciting revelations, deep learning, rich and textured interactions, and opportunities for growth—along with the belief that one can generate creative responses to those opportunities—engenders both a love of knowledge and an unbridled enthusiasm for the thrill of discovery! This is how we keep kids in school.

Does the CCSS limit or promote developing a comprehensive intelligence suited to the challenges of the 21st century? By excluding the arts and marginalizing other disciplines, while overemphasizing language and mathematics, I find it wanting in many ways.

I would suggest evolving it, building upon the current CCSS to be more inclusive and allow for an appreciation of the other types of intelligences that students might bring to the classroom, while opening up possibilities for more creative thinking and a more expansive approach to developing intelligence in our students.

Leave a Reply

ARTSblog holds week-long Blog Salons, a series of posts by guest bloggers, that focus on an overarching theme within a core area of Americans for the Arts' work. Here are links to the most recent Salons:

Arts Education

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices

Evaluation

Arts Marketing

Audience Engagement

Winning Audiences

Powered by Community

Animating Democracy

Arts & the Military

Scaling Up Programs & Projects

Social Impact & Evaluation

Humor & Social Change

Private Sector Initatives

Arts & Business Partnerships

Business Models in the Arts

Local Arts Agencies

Cultural Districts

Economic Development

Trends, Collaborations & Audiences

Art in Rural Communities

Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.