Rethinking Creativity in Education

Over the past few weeks I have rediscovered TED talks. For those of you who do not know what TED talks are, or know about TED, but have never really listened to one before, I highly recommend it.

Last year, one of the student groups in college had a weekly event that they called TED Talk Tuesday. Every Tuesday they would show a TED talk for people to watch and discuss. The group was a science honors society so most of the talks were science based. I do not consider myself to be a science person, but I still did enjoy myself there. The talks are written for the average person, not the huge academic, and many of them can be pretty funny.

Well it is not Tuesday, so today I will be having a TED Talk Wednesday.

Sir Ken Robinson giving a TED talk

Sir Ken Robinson giving a TED talk

Back in 2006, Sir Ken Robinson gave a talk at TED called “Schools Kill Creativity”. Now, this talk might have been given seven years ago, but I fully believe that it is still highly relevant today. During his talk, Robinson tells the story of Gillian Lynne. Lynne, who grew up in the ’30’s and ’40’s.

While she was at school, some of the teachers thought that she might have a learning disorder. She did not seem to be paying attention, and could never stay still in class. Now a days people would probably say that she has ADHD.

She and her mother went to a specialist, and when the specialist left the room with her mother to discuss a few more things he left Gillian alone with the radio on. Gillian’s mother and the specialist watched as Gillian began to dance around the room. The specialist then turned to Gillian’s mother and told her that her daughter was not “sick”, but was in fact a dancer. That was how she thought about, and processed the world: through dance.

During her career as a dancer Lynne worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber on some of his biggest productions such as Phantom of the Opera, and Cats. Robinson continues by saying,

She eventually auditioned for the Royal Ballet School, She became a soloist, [and] had a wonderful career at the Royal Ballet. She eventually graduates from The Royal Ballet School, founds her own company, The Gillian Lynne Dance Company, [and] met  Andrew Lloyd Webber. She has been responsible  for some of the most successful theater productions in history, she has given pleasure to millions, and she is a multimillionaire. Someone else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down.

That really spoke to me. Robinson urges us to act more like a child in the way that we approach creativity and coming up with new ideas, instead of having a child emulate our adult process. This is important, he says, because children are not afraid to do the wrong thing. They are not afraid to mess up, or to do something different, until they are taught that it is bad. They think outside the box. We learn that making a mistake is bad, that it is the worst thing we could do. But, Robison claims that

If you are not prepared to be wrong, you won’t come up with anything original.

Learning how to be wrong is a process that everyone has to go through, it is just less scary the younger you are. I believe that failure, as much as it sucks, is an important part of life. When I was in middle school, I did modern dance. I was the only one in my grade who did dance for all four years of middle school, and I could not wait to do Varsity Dance once I got to high school. I tried out in ninth grade and didn’t make the team. I hadn’t even considered what I would do if I didn’t make it, and I was crushed.

Now, I believe that it would have be a lot of fun to be on Varsity Dance in high school, but I also believe that dealing with that failure in my life prepared me in the long run. I am also just not a graceful person, and was in fact quite clumsy at the time. Even in stories, if a character never faces any problems or plot reversals, they do not have a chance to grow as a character, and the story has no where to go.

Robinson also claims that today’s education system puts too much emphasis on the “traditional” subjects of English, Math, Science, History etc. Of course these are important subjects to learn, but for Gillian Lynne, Dance was an important subject to learn too. Robinson states that the whole purpose of education is to prepare children for the future, but who really knows what the future will look like? Because of this, he believes that creativity is as important a part of our education system as literacy is. And this is a problem with so many school cutting down on their arts or extracurricular activities programs.

I have definitely seen the importance of creativity in my life, both as a young child who always had to write, and as a college grad. Many people scoff at English majors, saying that there are no “transferrable skills” that could be used in the workplace.

I however disagree. Shirley Tilghman, the president of Princeton University, has addressed this issue with a variety of different college majors. She says that you bring the information you learned in your college classes with you into the real world, but you also bring the ability of critical thinking with you as well. College, no matter what the major, should teach its students to think critically and present new ideas. It is those sorts of things that matter in the working world, no matter what the industry.

There are also a variety of different intelligences that the current education system does not always emphasize. Robinson says that today’s schools focus on academic ability. Other intelligences are seen as not as important. This is because education is frequently used to get into college, and further the academic cycle of school.

However, there are many different intelligences in the world. The psychologist Howard Gardner talks about this in his Theory of Multiple Intelligences . He claims that there are nine different intelligences that people can have, and the list has expanded since then.

Gardner claims that there is logical, or mathematical intelligence, spatial intelligence, linguistic intelligence, bodily, or kinesthetic intelligence, musical intelligence, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence, naturalistic intelligence, and existential intelligence. Now many of these can be addressed in a school setting, but at the same time many aren’t. And different people excel in different learning environments that do not always look like a typical classroom.

So there you have it. Those are my thoughts on Ken Robinson’s TED talk, and on the importance of creativity in the education system. Go listen to the talk – it is very well done, and will really make you think about these issues.

Click here to find out more about Sir Ken Robinson.

But Actually…This Is My Life…

Hello all! I have been pretty busy lately which has been great, but it has also meant that I have not been able to post recently. I do have a fun little post today. What Happens When You Like Books More Than Anything Else in the Whole World via Bookriot.

from Book Riot

from Book Riot

Some might scoff at this article, but to others it is completely true. Those of us who curl up in bed and read at night instead of going to sleep (that’s how I finished the 7th Harry Potter). Or, those of us who find no use for a bag unless it can hold a book. I think I have one bag that cannot successfully hold a book and I only used it for prom. Some of us are introverts. Some are extroverts. Some might have joined a fandom long before the movie and others might have hopped on so they could see the movie without ruining the book. We all know that the book is better anyway. And we also know that commuting is far less exciting when we don’t have a good book to delve into to get ourselves away from the crowds on the subway.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a dinner to go to. I am going to take the subway and bring my book. And when I finish that book (which is amazing) I will undoubtedly review it on here, and then proceed to make everyone I know read it. (See Chatting Normally). So be prepared. And keep on reading!

Reached: The Final Installment

Earlier today I finished reading Ally Condie’s third book, Reached. (Click here for my Crossed and Matched reviews)

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Reached begins with The Rising, the event that has been anticipated since the beginning of the series, really. Literary dystopian societies are made to fall apart – it is how this happens where the story comes in.

In Reached, The Society falls apart through the outbreak of a virus called The Plague. Patients get sick and feverish and eventually “go still”. The Society, which has control over everything, cannot control this new virus, and The Rising steps in to take its place. Cassia, Ky, and even Xander have important roles to play in The Rising.

Eventually The Plague is under control and everything seems to be going well, until The Plague mutates and The Rising is left to deal with the consequences.

It is said that a character never truly gets what they want, and if they do it is never quite what it seems. In my opinion, although it may be overdone, a dystopian novel is an excellent example of how this plays out within a story.

Reached adds on to where Crossed left off both in plot development and narration. The chapters alternate between Cassia, Ky, and now Xander. Xander proves to be an interesting character, and not the Society square perfect boy that he was made out to be in Matched. Each character has their own point of view when it comes to the events in The Rising, although sometimes the narration can be very similar.

Condie does a good job of tying up the loose ends of the first two books by bringing everything together in this final installment. However, I did find it to be a bit long, and to drag on in places. I definitely thought it could be edited down, or that some of the plot elements could have been brought up in Crossed to not overload the final book. There were a few details I would like to know more about, however, like what happened to the original Markham boy. That plot line was pretty much left open.

That being said, the characters do develop quite a bit between Matched and Crossed, each in their own way. Cassia really delves into creation through poetry and the arts. I really enjoyed the way that this played out in the story. The Society does not like the concept of creating things, and they have tackled that full heartedly. Cassia is a sorter, and an excellent sorter at that. She can make sense of senseless numbers, and can see where things need to go to make order. She is a perfect for The Society’s needs. But ever since she met Ky back in the first book, she has been interested in more than just sorting, she has wanted to create. Whether it is writing her name in dirt with a stick, reading poetry, or creating a Gallery for people to express their talents, Cassia has always been interested in the idea of creation, especially since The Society is so against it.

The concept of the love triangle between Cassia, Xander, and Ky does continue to exist, but each character has a life beyond the love triangle, which makes for more enjoyable and realistic characters. Each has something to live for. This also makes the plot better, and more suspenseful overall. If anything, the love triangle drives each character’s actions towards The Rising and The Plague, which in turn drives those narratives forward. They are all involved in something bigger than themselves, and they are all very aware of this fact.

It is hard to keep a story going through multiple books, and in my opinion, Matched is probably the strongest book. That being said I did enjoy where Condie brought the story in the end, and I think that there are many good ideas and concepts within the books. It has proved itself to be more than just a flighty love triangle book of teenage angst.

Crossed: The Saga Continues

To see my post about Matched, click here.

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Crossed by Ally Condie is the second book in the Matched Trilogy. That being said, there will be spoilers in this review.

Matched ended with Ky being taken away from The Society due to a sort that Cassia has performed at his work. Cassia so far has been set up as an ideal candidate for society, in a way. She has a sorter’s brain, and can look at a set of data and put it in order, but at the same time she wants more than that. She wants to create, learn, write etc. In Crossed, Cassia seizes the opportunity to escape from Society life, and to go find Ky herself.

Crossed takes place in the Outer Provinces and the Canyon where The Society does not have as strong a hold on its people. Ky is sent to fight the elusive “Enemy”, and Cassia sets out to find him. On her journey she teams up with some Aberrations, or individuals that The Society set aside, like Ky. She also has a chance to learn more about the history behind The Society, Aberrations, and The Rising which plans to overturn The Society. Joining the rising soon becomes Cassia’s driving force in life, and she will have to figure out what she is willing to give up to get there.

I would say that there is less action in Crossed compared to Matched, maybe because of the solitary setting of the Carving compared to that of The Society. That being said, it is still a good read, and Condie really digs into character background and motivations, which I enjoyed. While Matched was narrated solely by Cassia, Crossed has alternating chapters between Cassia and Ky. I have enjoyed books with alternating chapters before, but I am While I do find alternating chapters to be jarring at times – you’ve just gotten back into one character’s mindset before you switch to another, I did enjoy seeing Ky from another angle. He is portrayed as such a mysterious character in Matched, that I enjoyed learning more about him first hand rather than through Cassia’s narration. I found his motivations to be really interesting, especially in terms of his opinions on The Rising.

As I said in my post about Matched, dystopian novels always end with the society falling apart – it is the how and why of the matter that is interesting. I would say that Condie has done a good job in Crossed of setting up a finale. Both Cassia and Ky grow as characters and learn about their environment and history in ways that they could not have done in the first book. The love triangle, once again, is also used as more of a subtle driving force that connects Cassia, Xander, and Ky together, although I saw more “Team Xander” and “Team Ky” material in Crossed as compared to Matched. Or rather Xander has the potential for being a more interesting and well rounded character than he was first thought to be in Matched. I guess what I am trying to say is that there are other things going on in each person’s life beyond the love triangle, which I always find to be refreshing. This also makes for a more multi-dimensional read. Still curious as to what will be after the love triangle fad though.

I’m reading Reached now – review to come. So far it’s pretty good…

Matched, Dystopia, and the Infamous Love Triangle

I feel like I am in an interesting situation in terms of my reading preferences. I read lots of young adult books, and love the genre, but at the same time I tend to stay away from the overall themes of said genre. When bookstores set up tables of “If You Like Harry Potter Read This” and “Books Like The Hunger Games” I tend not to be too interested. I am a huge Harry Potter fan, and I love The Hunger Games. I even read some Twilight. But I never really got into the other “boy wizard” books or other paranormal fantasies that were out there. And now everything is dystopian.

I started reading Divergent a couple of months ago, but I felt like I had to put it down because the world wasn’t real enough for me. I couldn’t see how people lived like that. I understand that that is the point of a dystopian novel – an overpowering society that ultimately falls apart in the end, but I just couldn’t buy it for that book. So I had my doubts about Matched as well.

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I bought Matched one day where I was at the bookstore and didn’t know what I wanted to get. The paperback edition had just come out, and it wasn’t too expensive. I had also heard a lot about this book from colleagues and the internet, and I figured it was something I should probably read so that I could have an opinion on it. If I hated it, oh well, not much would change.

I also might add that I am very cynical about the whole love triangle situation that seems to be a staple in Young Adult fiction right now. (I’m blaming Twilight for that one). I have talked before about how I like strong female protagonists who can stand on their own two feet, and love triangles do not always lend themselves to such characters. So I had my doubts going in, but I wanted to read something light and fun after the two dense historical novels that I have been reading.

A little background on Matched: Cassia lives in a world where The Society makes choices for her. She goes to school, works as a sorter, and either listens to music, plays games, or watches a movie in her free time with her friends. Most importantly, The Society chooses who she marries through the Matching Ceremony that every seventeen year old attends. It is the highlight of The Society’s success. Cassia is happy to be matched with her best friend Xander, but when she goes home to look at the microchip with Xander’s information on it, another boy’s face pops up instead.

There you go. Classic love triangle. I found some of the love triangle plot to be pretty predictable, but at the same time there were other twists in the plot that kept me reading. I was happy to see that the love triangle is not necessarily the main focus of the book, but rather an avenue that allows other themes and issues to appear. Since it is dystopian, it is pretty clear that The Society is going to come apart, but the questions are how and why? The author, Ally Condie, uses the love triangle to introduce the idea of choice into Cassia’s life – something that she has never had before. I was more interested in seeing how Cassia deals with this idea of choice, and overcomes the obstacles The Society throws in her way, more than I was in Team Xander or Team Ky.

The dystopian society was more akin to The Giver than it was to The Hunger Games, I thought. Condie still did manage to make it her own though, which can be hard with such a formulaic and saturated topic.

Songs and poetry also play a pretty important role in the book. The Society has the 100 Songs, 100 Paintings, and 100 Stories that are stamped with The Society seal of approval and remembered through the generations. Cassia has an interest in poetry and the idea of creation – she has always had things handed to her, never created anything herself. I liked how poetry was used to fuel creation. Yay literature!

Matched is a pretty quick read – I think I finished it in about 2 days (started it at night). There were times where I thought that some ideas could be implied more than stated in writing to make the book a little more subtle, but by stating things outright Condie can reach out to a younger reader demographic without alienating older readers. YA after all, is targeted at younger readers, despite the fact that it’s readers are 50/50 teens and adults. Maybe that’s why I find the genre to be so interesting.

Anyway, I am now on the third book in the Matched trilogy, reviews to come, and overall I have been pleasantly surprised by the series. It is a fun read. That being said, I am still looking forward to the day where having a love triangle in the plot is no longer a requirement for Young Adult fiction. What will be next?