Sunday, 8 May 2011

'How To Turn Around Our Creative Crisis'

Uh oh. I’m in one of those moods...
I came across an article written for The Atlantic which focused on the United States’ creative crisis. By analysing the role of ‘play’ in our childhood upbringing, education and its role in the workplace, Laura Seargeant Richardson suggests that in order to teach the youth to innovate and succeed within a creative economy, as well as increase our human potential, the formalisation of play must be a national effort. Unfortunately, there are a number of modern developments that are discouraging creative play and encouraging the growth of a bland society - not only in America but here in the UK.
Richardson suggests that we nurture the ‘superpowers of play’ :
‘Superpowers [...] are the physical and mental skills that we develop to adapt and thrive in a complex world, while exploring the creative opportunities made possible by global progress [...] They aren't narrowly defined subjects. And they aren't a technology platform. They are naturally occurring abilities we purposefully foster that amplify our human potential.’
The ‘extras’ that cannot easily be measured but enable us to do more, go further, push boundaries, break conventions. Innovate.
Super they may be, but how on earth do you identify and utilise these skills? And whose job is it to do so? Mum is a secondary school English teacher and continually finds that teenagers are unable to think flexibly and find it difficult to imagine and empathise- more so than they did a few years ago.
She asks: ‘Why do you think this word used?’
They reply: ‘Because it just is.’
There's no point in trying to teach them to think outside the metaphorical box, they’ll be staring blankly at the box and waiting for it to give them an answer. Usually, the box = computer. You can't teach someone to create an imagination for themselves and you can't expect a teacher to do that.
In the UK where debt reigns and cuts are more like gaping bloody craters, it is the arts and creative programs that are abolished from schools and clubs first. What message does this send to the nation? Creative and extra-curricular tasks are made separate and subordinate to core literacies and numeracies and because of this, are able to be dismissed entirely. They're a nuisance! Opportunities for children and young people are diminishing and that is truly rubbish.
As we grow up our conventional playtime naturally decreases. We turn to other things to explore our playful mind, I guess. In most cases the divide between work and play is clear. However, Richardson reiterates the importance of play within the workplace as we mature and states that many industries are craving candidates that are able to work with their playful mind. In a recent IBM survey, 1500 CEOs identified creativity as the number one leadership competency of the future. They want work and play to mix because creativity creates good business.
In the long term, Richardson is optimistic that we, both young and old, will magically learn to embrace and excel our superpowers of play but her conclusion is ridiculously utopian:
[R]ather than measuring memorization as an indicator of progress, we will measure our children's ability to manipulate (deconstruct and hack), morph (think flexibly and be tolerant of change), and move (think "with their hands" and play productively). Standardized aptitude tests will be replaced by our abilities to see (observe and imagine), sense (have empathy and intrinsic motivation), and stretch (think abstractly and systemically). We will advance our abilities to collaborate and create.’
I find that hard to imagine when throughout each hour of the day we, at all ages, are reliant on things being given to us, fed to us, with no need for interpretation. The growth of the social networking sphere has meant that although opinions are encouraged, they're heavily influenced; copying is cooler. I think that's off-topic... Oopsy! Time to end.
Well, I’m off to find Rt Hon Michael Gove MP to discuss important matters such as these. In the meantime, click here to view The Guardian's handy interactive map to see the 206 organisations nationwide that will receive £0/nada/zilcho funding for the financial year 2012/13 and here for Richardson's original article.
If all else fails, force your children to play the piano whilst wearing a ravishing Chinese outfit. Good combo for superpowers. PEOWPEOW!


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