Monday, October 7, 2013

WHY SHOULD SCHOOLS TEACH IMAGINATION AND VALUE THE ARTS?!

 As an art teacher of 37 years I seem to fight the battle of the value of art education over and over, with principals, with parents, and with classroom teachers.  
Photo by Elizabeth Gordon    Rawlings Elementary
It seemed to often be the mainstay of my job, for if I could not convince my  principal I could not get a budget to buy supplies or to have an adequate schedule to teach my students, if I could not convince the parents then when I saw a talented child I could not steer them toward having their child pursue a career in the arts, and if I could not convince my fellow teachers, they would not support the arts budget, schedule or programs I developed nor re-enforce them in the classroom.  
After entering as an idealistic young teacher of the arts who thought every one would be glad to have me share my knowledge, I began to accept I was going to have educate all the adults around me as well.  Some peoples idea of the arts is so basic that they think patterns, bean pictures and doilies are ok for lesson plans.  For people to understand creative thinking and the creative intelligence was going to take years of work and persistence on my part...and it did.  
from google image for educational purposes only



As to why imagination and creative thinking are so important we can listen to one of the geniuses of our Time, Albert Einstein who said imagination is more important than knowledge.  

In reading Creativity and its Cultivation another section caught my attention about why imagination is more important in education than knowledge. In a discussion about what makes man a higher species in evolution Edmund Sinnot offers this thought:
  "There is an important element that must be added to this concept of the human mind, particularly if we consider its creativeness. The complexity of mans' psychological patterns have enriched his mental life, but something else has been acquired in his upward progress. Gaining power to accumulate experience was not enough to make him truly man.  Another quality was necessary-the gift of imagination.   This is perhaps mans most distinctive trait, for it makes possible his creativeness."
"To achieve his goals, to satisfy the pattern of desires, that arise in him from interaction between his wide genetic capacity and the increasing complexities of his environment would not have been enough to account for tremendous acceleration mans progress since he became man. Sometimes human achievement is stalled, because of a missing element.  Sooner or later there was born in someones mind an new idea which provided the missing element.  So must have come the use of fire and the bow, communication by written symbols, the invention of the wheel, and the domestication of animals.  These were not of sudden origin, but the product of many minds:but they were all novelties that could not have appeared unless someone who could imagine a situation never yet experienced, who could picture in his mind something he had not seen"
This seems a very complex way of saying why imagination is more important than the acquisition of knowledge..but consider this fact knowledge and facts change, they are not static.
My Mother, now 100, told me question facts,"once all
my texts said the atom could not be split"
 My Mother once told me never believe everything that is written or in you text books...when she was child the books said the atom could not and never would be split. Of course things change as Hiroshima and Nagasaki would prove unfortunately.  But it did teach me early on my Mother was right, always question facts and data.  It was my imagination that would drive my creativity.  It is the way I taught children in my art classroom, the creative process.
 We worked on building their imaginations and learned by problem solving with a hands on approach.  Now education is beginning to follow the arts and institute experiential creative problem solving across the curriculum.  The arts have always been the birth place of creativity, it is where the mind is free, without rules or limit, to wander, to imagine, to see what is not yet seen!
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