Teachers Don’t Know From Creative

We all know that arts classes and opportunities have been disappearing from schools at varying rates for decades. It may or may not surprise you to learn that creativity is not encouraged in schools either. While you may have suspected it all along, Alex Tabarrok links to a number of studies from the Marginal Revolution blog.

He cites in one study,

“What the paper shows is that the characteristics that teachers use to describe their favorite student correlate negatively with the characteristics associated with creativity. In addition, although teachers say that they like creative students, teachers also say creative students are “sincere, responsible, good-natured and reliable.” In other words, the teachers don’t know what creative students are actually like.”

As Tabarrok notes, the classroom process is not conducive to impulsive creative expression. Self control is valued in students in order to create an environment for a group to learn in. I would note though that this is not to equate self-control with smothering creativity. Even in self-directed learning environments where students are more in control of the pace and manner of their learning, a degree of self-control is still expected.

It occurs to me that part of the fight to restore arts education to schools needs to include advocating for a learning environment that encourages creativity. Arts people may hold certain assumptions about that arts in education involves cultivating creative expression, but it might not necessarily be so. Everyone probably has a story about a teacher who nearly killed their interest in an artistic discipline.

It may seem like incrementalism in the face of the size of the struggle to get arts education restored, but in the process, it will be important to try to preserve opportunities for creative expression still have left lest they slip away.

Think about it– outside the classroom the only place where a child is still permitted to indulge their screaming anarchist tendencies is on the playground and a lot of schools are doing away with recess. Without recess, there is another moment of a child’s life where they are expected to behave.

Now granted, for all I know kids today may stand around at recess playing on their Nintendo DSes and ignore their screaming anarchist tendencies without any help from their schools and such advocacy is for naught anyway.

My point is that while fighting for the restoration of arts, it is probably important to make teachers aware of what creative students are actually like and provide tools/guidance for dealing with them rather than requiring them to conform to expectations all the time.

Essentially the approach of “Arts offer X, Y, Z to your students. But since you may not provide opportunities in the coming academic year, we will happily help you to recognize the creativity of your students and engage it in your classroom to some degree since these kids are likely the ones you have pegged as disconnected.”

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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