Creativity as a History of the Present in Belgian Education: From "New and Appropriate" to "Entrepreneurship" (1950-2013)

By Vranckx, Bart | Knowledge Cultures, May 2014 | Go to article overview

Creativity as a History of the Present in Belgian Education: From "New and Appropriate" to "Entrepreneurship" (1950-2013)


Vranckx, Bart, Knowledge Cultures


1. Introduction

"Self-organization combined with creativity gives us the powerful quality which any society badly needs to secure its own future: entrepreneurship." This quote by the Belgian educator Ferre Laevers illustrates the current importance given to creativity, and its close approximation with entrepreneurship. In scientific research, a lot of attention has been paid to defining what creativity is. One of the main reasons behind this interest in the definition--which is such that even authors who say that they rather prefer to spend their energy on studying creativity than on arguing over a definition add that this does not mean that the issue should be postponed indefinitely --is that creativity is not a straightforward concept to define. It is considered as ambiguous and even mysterious, but at the same time as a universal characteristic of people, as something everyone has at least the possibility to be, even while it does not seem to be the case that everyone is. Creativity research has become a mainstay in psychology, and is an increasingly popular subject in human sciences in general (for an overview, see Runco, 2004). More importantly, creativity has been widely accepted as a core value in our society, where it is rarely questioned. As Camilla Nelson said, "few English nouns have generated such relentlessly good publicity as the word 'creativity'" (Nelson, 2010: 49). It is found and praised in fields as diverse as the arts, information technology and business management. It is also increasingly popular among interdisciplinary schools, like Creative Industries or Creative Practices. Creativity testing, the effect of creativity, how to instill creative behavior in people,... all these things can be seen as derived from the question 'what is creativity.' I want to look at creativity from an entirely different perspective.

In this article, I would like to pose the question why creativity has become so important for us. More specifically, I will focus on creativity in primary education in Belgium, where it has become a key concept in the competency-based approach that is dominant in the current educational landscape. I will focus on the neoliberal governmental regime, and highlight the connection of creativity with entrepreneurship in (mainly) the primary education in Belgium, and more specifically Flanders. (1) In the first part of the article, I give a short historical overview of the study of creativity in history and the differences with my own, more genealogical-minded approach. This is followed by a short account of the rise to prominence of creativity in educational discourse during the 1960s and 1970s. In the second part, I proceed to explain the idea of governmentality and the entrepreneurial self, which I will use to explain the reemergence of creativity in education. In the last part, I delve deeper into the relation between creativity and entrepreneurship.

2. Creativity in History

The standard definition of creativity, to which most researchers--at least in some form--agree, is that creativity has two main characteristics, namely that it is both novel and useful or appropriate. This definition dates back to Stein (Stein, 1953), but a lot of different scholars have come up with subtle variations on this standard definition, from Sternberg to Csikszentmihalyi over Amabile to Anston, to name just a few. Most of these definitions disagree on strictness or narrowness of the definition, but can more or less be considered as variations on this standard definition of useful and appropriate. Another, rather important, point of divergence is the realist-antirealist debate. There is a strong antirealist current within creativity research (in accordance with the general tendency in the human sciences over the last decades), with Csikzentmihalyi and Gardner as some of the more well-known proponents of this stance (Feldman, Csikszentmihalyi, & Gardner, 1994). Realists claim that a concept can exist independently of its experience, antirealists deny this. …

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