Friday, April 16, 2010

Is Creativity doomed?

A terrible thing is happening here in Georgia (and I’m sure in other places too).   State government is planning cut all State funding for the arts, which of course will mean no matching funds from the federal government.   Art is not considered necessary.  The public libraries across Georgia operate on miniscule budgets, but even those are being cut.  A mayor was heard to say that libraries were not necessary, nobody ever went there, they all have televisions in their own homes.   Huge amounts of money are being cut from the education budgets, and schools have diluted and diluted their curricula until they are nothing more than a series of test questions that the children can learn by rote so that the schools don’t lose even more funding.   The minds of all are being shrunk…watch tv, don’t read.  Don’t even consider a creative answer, it’s not on the test.   Art, music or drama?  Those are unessential “soft” activities designed to take your mind off the real tasks in life: produce, buy and consume.  Nineteen Eighty-four  is here.

The crazy thing is – that in order to have more things to produce, buy and consume we need people to be creative.   So cutting funding is self destructive anyway.    All over the world companies are competing to provide new objects, new technologies, new systems.   Innovative solutions are necessary for progress, so why are we not encouraging and teaching our children and ourselves to be creative?  Even if creative solutions are dreamed up, it seems there are conspiracies to squash it.  A friend of mine discovered a better drug for a certain disease; the drug’s patent was bought by a chemical company and the drug never produced….it might have competed with their existing drugs for that disease.  Ian McEwan’s brilliant new book Solar shows how greed at every level acts like weed killer to mow down all new ideas sprouting up.    

We need more Weeds!!! More creativity.  More horizontal thinking all over the place.  As teachers we know how often people say in class “oh I’m not creative like you”….let’s help everyone to see how creative they are. 
I remember one class where the teacher started out great “let’s throw out all the rules!”, she said.   But then, “now you must do this, and this , and this….and all by 4pm”!!!  Hmm, just run that by me again?!!

If we all demand to be creative, celebrate creativity, stop educating our children in ways that reduce rather than increase their creativity, if we all stop watching reruns on telly and go to the library and support any local art event, perhaps we can begin to turn the tide.    Let’s find out how to be creative and practice creativity every day…it’s more important for the brain than crosswords and sudoku.  Once your brain has learned to solve those kinds of puzzles it stops learning, simply uses the same kind of analyses over and over.

Never again make a quilt that someone else designed!  Never take a class where the teacher dictates the pattern or gives you new rules to replace old ones.   Try to come up with new ways of solving problems, and encourage all those around you to do likewise.   Let creativity rule, and grow and grow.

Sorry for the rant!  but the local news has really shaken me up.  If you have been, thanks for reading!  And if you have any ideas as to how we can really encourage activity everywhere for everyone, let’s hear about it!



Crazy for Art said...

I teach music in Ohio and my school district has been told that we may lose a third of our budget because of state cuts. I have been teaching 23 years and I just hope to have enough retirement before they cut the arts.I have been worried about losing my job before, but this time it may become a reality.

Lynn said...

I have a suggestion: Next time a student tells you that they "aren't creative like you," try this comeback. Tell them they are correct. Everyone has their own unique creativity. Your job as a teacher is to help them discover their own creativity and nurture it.

I teach remedial and freshman level college mathematics. Many of my students tell me that they aren't good at math for a variety of reasons. I tell them that I'm not any better at math than they are, I just have more experience. This usually gets their attention.

Maybe my creativity comeback suggestion might get some folks' attention too.

As for cutting the arts and libraries, I feel your pain. My son is in 2nd grade and I am constantly assessing what he is learning at school and what he isn't, then seeking out opportunities to fill in the gaps. We use our local library a lot!

Jackie said...

We've had tough times before but this round is definitely the worst! Our libraries are very well-supported by the public and that definitely helps, but hours are being cut more and more. They're hanging in there though. Education is being cut terribly here in Nevada and we haven't hit bottom yet, I don't think, scary times. But at the same time, a crisis is an opportunity as we learn our way around these obstacles. In quilting, perhaps more classes will be offered from local teachers and people can realize what they have in their midst and learn that the teacher isn't much different from them. There are a lot of arts opportunities here as well and more and more locals are taking advantage of them. The support we give each other during these difficult times makes us stronger now and in better times to come. I certainly sound Pollyann-ish, but I believe in Hope. Thank you for your blog, one of the resources I can access for free! Thank you!!

Art by Rhoda Forbes said...

The same thing is happening in BC, Canada. Our libraries are operating on a shoestring budget and most funding for the arts has been cut.
It is a sad day.

Penelope Else said...

I'm right with you! In fact I'm making this my future: promoting creativity (find me at @creatsia).

I guess it's now our creative challenge to come up with ways to make it happen without government funding. I'm looking forward to that mental workout!

Would love to maintain a conversation about this, if you're interested?

Penelope Else

Rayna said...

If you think this is bad, you do not even want to know what is happening in New Jersey.
Don't get me started!

Suzanne Sanger said...

Maybe it's time for all of us to become rabble-rousers instead of hand-wringers. Although I have no idea how to go about doing that effectively. Sadly, there is so little money in the pot that there may be nothing we can do in any practical way. Blood from a turnip, etc. But I DO think we need to be vocal about this, and try to keep the need for arts funding and library support out there in the public eye. If my kids were still young and despite being fairly opposed to the idea of home schooling, I think I'd have to be considering something like that. Absolutely I'd be trying to do what Lynn W. suggests in her last paragraph. Does anyone know good sources for home schooled arts curricula?

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