Saturday, August 7, 2010

it never hurts to ask ...

museum sketching
I just spent the past two weeks bringing my kids to art camp in the city every day, which has become an annual tradition in our family and is quite frankly the best part of my summer every year!  My kids get more work done, more art projects made, in these two weeks than in an entire school year of once-a-week 45-minute art classes.  And they're better projects!  I love seeing my kids wake up excited to get going, asking me before they've even eaten any breakfast, "Is today a camp day?"  The creative energy that pounds within the college where the camp is held is invigorating, for them and for me (I think I got more work done in these past two weeks than in the past two months!).  And yet, I'm supposed to feel LUCKY that my local public school district still offers art class once a week?

Newsweek recently ran an article called "The Creativity Crisis" describing the fact that creativity skills in children are measurably decreasing.  This trend is terribly alarming, considering the fact that creative-thinking skills are widely recognized as crucial to success in the 21st-century world.  Parents have certainly been buzzing in response to the article - I've read a number of posts about it online and I've overheard people talking about it around town, too.  Some have suggested that as long as they're encouraging their own kids to be creative at home, then they're doing enough.  But I disagree. 

I think that if we only 'take care of our own' then nothing is ever going to change for the better and the decreasing creativity trend will get even worse.  For most of the year our kids spend most of their day in school, commuting to and from school, and doing homework.  I've read for several years about the narrowing of the curriculum as more and more school districts focus on standardized test scores, and I've seen it happen firsthand in my own school district over the past two years.  But I also know that parents have a lot of influence, more than many of us realize, and that if we all made an effort to do one small thing more, we might be able to effect real change regarding creativity in our public schools. 

Of course we can all encourage our own kids to be creative (and there are many places to look to for inspiration, for example), but that 'one thing more' I mentioned is this: we can also encourage our kids' teachers and principals and school administrators to bring more creativity into the classroom.  There's a great arts-advocacy campaign that uses the tag-line "The Arts. Ask For More." and the premise here is the same.  If we all let our kids' teachers and principals and school administrators know, over and over again, that encouraging creativity in the classroom is something that we value greatly and want to see more of, then we can change things for the better in our kids' schools. Just with the power of conversation!  I've been thinking of an old saying that goes something like, "a single drop of water will raise the level of the sea".  Well, imagine what a downpour can accomplish!


  1. Kristen, Thank you for your thoughtful response to my post about this very issue. I fear that I was not very clear in my post about how very, very important it is to address this issue in our schools and classrooms. I agree with every point that you made. I absolutely do not think that doing our part at home is enough. With my children spending 7 hours of their day in someone else's classroom I feel that it is crucial for them to be "taught" (the article does discuss how creativity can be taught!) creativity and critical thinking skills! I will always be an advocate for this at every level in my children's life. I believe that as parents we need to become better educated about these very issues so that we are able to produce more change.

    Again, thank you for sharing your response and your kinds words!

  2. I'm so glad to learn that you're talking about creativity at school, too! I really do believe that if teachers and administrators were hearing from many parents about the importance we place on creativity, the message would start to sink in ...