Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

The Residue of Wasted Time

Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

The Residue of Wasted Time

Article excerpt

Creativity is valuable.

From a practical perspective, the ability to create - to bring into existence something that doesn't yet exist - is useful. Very useful. I created a system of fencing to contain my two boys in the backyard. This means I do not have to chase them quite so far. (Of course, inevitably, they in turn create ways of escaping!) The ability to create is so useful that as humans have evolved, the capacity for creativity has been hardwired into our DNA. We are all born creative; creativity is not just a rare gift for a chosen few, but a universal trait (Lehrer, 2012). We may no longer all be able to grip trees with our toenails*, but we still all have the ability to create.

Beyond pragmatics, creations make lives richer. From Beethoven symphonies to refrigerator art, creations inspire and transport, evoke and awaken. And the very act of creating enriches lives, in the aesthetic realms and beyond. There is such pleasure and meaningfulness to be found in the artful preparation of a meal, in cultivating a garden, or in building a wooden bench for putting on shoes...

Educating our young people in ways that nurture their natural and inherent capacity for creativity is valuable.

Laurie Schell and Joe Landon of the California Alliance for Arts Education explain: "As we have moved into an economy driven by ideas and innovation, our schools must respond by providing all our students with the opportunity to develop creative skills" (2011).

From a cultural perspective, creatively activated people are valuable because they have the potential to enrich lives through their creations both pragmatic and aesthetic. This is a truism that is no more valid now than it ever has been or ever will be. It is always essential that we recognize the value of creativity for making lives worth living.

From a business perspective, creatively activated employees are valuable because they bring the potential to create things that are valuable - things, perhaps, that society desperately needs (such as pleasantly scented air-fresheners to hang around the rear-view mirror in your car). The ability to work creatively is an increasingly marketable skill. Recent findings indicate 81 percent of corporate leaders in America believe that "creativity is an essential skill for the 21st-century workforce" (Schell & Landon, 2012). Given that our world is changing so rapidly, we need people who will be able to create the things that we don't know we need yet. As Caitlin Quinton writes in this issue of the CME, "Rather than focusing on knowledge acquisition, the best way for schools to prepare students for an uncertain future may be to teach them to think creatively" (2012, p. 33).

In keeping with the prevailing current educational ethos of: 'It's important - quick, let's measure it!' California is working on a creativity and innovation index, a tool for schools to rate their progress in nurturing creativity:

It would quantify the opportunities in each school as measured by the availability of classes and before and after-school programs offered by and through school districts that nurture creativity and innovation in students. Examples might include visual and performing arts education classes, debate clubs, science fairs, theatre and dance performances, music concerts, filmmaking, creative writing, and independent research. (Schell & Landon, 2012)

Sounds exciting! However, there may be some problems here. For example, equating the presence of performing arts education classes and music concerts with the development of creative skills is a rather optimistic leap in logic. As Lee Willingham wrote: "we lay claim to creativity as one of the pillars of our musical educative endeavours. Yet music education, so strongly rooted in performance traditions, has resulted in the virtual absence of creative problem solving processes in its teaching and learning practices" (2002, p. xvii).

Music education has great potential for enabling young people to explore and develop their creative abilities. …

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