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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    More emphasis on creativity needed in our education

    The American education system has fallen victim to an assembly line approach to teaching students. When the bell rings, students are passed down the line from math to English, English to foreign language, and foreign language to history until, after six hours of work, they are sent home to fine-tune their new components with hours of homework.

    This paradigm is not surprising considering our approach to public education was designed in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, but this philosophy of encouraging students to simply memorize information does not foster the intellectual growth and flexibility necessary to solve the world’s most pressing problems. Intelligence is not simply the ability to memorize nuggets of information; it is the power to synthesize that information and utilize the brain’s tools in order to innovate or create new ways of looking at problems.

    We’ve become obsessed with performance metrics like test scores and grades, but we have lost sight of what it means to truly be an intellectual.

    The importance of creativity is completely understated. Creative thinking should not be an idea exclusive to the arts; it is important to every educational discipline.

    We could learn from smaller nations, such as Finland, where schools are not simply throwing more and more information at students and assigning increased amounts of homework. They are, in fact, assigning less homework and prescribing more opportunities for creative interaction.

    According to the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment survey, which ranks the academic performance of 15-year-olds in various countries, Finnish students were ranked third on the reading and mathematics scales, behind those from Shanghai and South Korea, and were second only to Shanghai on the science scale.

    In its current structure, the American education system as a whole, higher education included, does not foster a creative approach to education. This is certainly true in many programs at the UA, with classes where students sit in large lecture halls and are talked to, not with, and not encouraged to think for themselves.

    Some programs, though, are breaking the mold, which is what the entire university should be striving for.

    The McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship is one program requiring students to engage in right-brain approaches to problem solving. Since the 1980s, this UA program has brought high-performing students from all disciplines together to create new products from start to finish and learn the importance of innovation. They are mentored by successful entrepreneurs throughout their time in the program. The McGuire Center has been extremely successful, and recently received the Governor’s Innovator of the Year Award.

    Patty Sias, the program director for the McGuire Center, said she believes that students who go through the program are well-equipped to start ventures of their own when they graduate.
    According to Sias, entrepreneurs ask, “What’s a problem people are having? And then see those problems as an opportunity for a venture.”

    This entrepreneurial mindset is not specific to business students, Sias said, and having the ability to think creatively about a project can help solve society’s biggest issues.

    In another example, Chase Salsbury, an optical engineering senior, said the College of Engineering requires seniors to participate in a course where they see a project from inception to completion.

    He said that this has been one of the most engaging and worthwhile courses that he has taken at the UA, and that all students would benefit from the creative process required of engineering seniors.

    “Of all the classes in engineering … being part of a project from start to finish is probably the most valuable thing,” Salsbury said.

    The UA should shift its approach to education to foster the principles of creative thinking and innovative problem solving in all disciplines.

    “There is some development process to everything; it’s not just engineering that has development,” Salsbury said. “It’s this idea of transfer of knowledge, which is what really solves problems.”

    To begin with, every college senior should be required to write a thesis and offer some level of defense for their idea. By doing this, students will be far more prepared to approach the plethora of problems that are facing the world and that they will encounter in professional life, because they’ll be breaking out of the generic formulaic classroom environment.

    An entrepreneurial, creative mind allows individuals the flexibility to think outside the box. Requiring students to complete a project, such as a thesis or capstone project, will better prepare students for these real-world scenarios.

    Education should condition and train our entire mind, but currently, it tends to alienate our creativity. The change will not be quick, but small adjustments such as this can set us on a new path, one that brings us out of the lens of the Industrial Revolution and into the 21st century.

    Anthony Carli is a political science senior. Follow him @acarli10.

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