Thursday, February 21, 2008

Creativity Gap

An article in The School Administrator in February discusses the creativity gap between Americans and Asians. It states that Asians think more as a group and their constant obligations to the group and not to bring shame to the group. American parents and educators overall have low academic expectations of their students which is a sign that American parents and educators define success more broadly and strongly emphasis children as individuls and that it is important to respect their wishes and abilities.

Asian parents put a higher value on grades and test scores pressuring their kids that academic success is important not for personal reasons, but to please others. Asians are more apt to use a standardized and centralized curriculum.
The article states that "teaching at the same pace and from the same textbook for all students leaves little time for exploring individual interests. Creativity cannot be taught but it can be killed. The creativity gap exists because American schools teach creativity and do not kill it as much as do Asians."

Asians parents place an extremely high value on external indicators-grades, test scdores,and most importantly, admission to prestigous universities. Excessive or exclusive focus on external indicators of success such as grades and test scores can pressure children, sending the message that academic success is important, not for personal reasons, but to please others.

The article continues stating that more people crossing national borders requires communities to become increasingly diverse culturally and racially. Communities need to provide services that are culturally sensistive and linguistically competent to new immigrants, to attract international investments and tourists, and to get on the global stage. What used to be required of a small group of individuals - diplomats, translators,cross-cultural communications or international tour guides - has become necessary for most all professions.

Many American students lack sufficient knowledge about the rest of the world including languages and cultures and are not prepared to compete and lead in a global workforce. Most American schools do not teach foreign languages until high school which is a little too late and even in high school, most students are not required to take any foreign language. By contrast, in China, English is required beginning, in some cases, as early the first grade.

Much the same is true in South Korea, Taiwan and other nations. Whatever is happening in distant places of the world now affects communities worldwide. Terrorism, environmental destruction, disease and political unrest have all acquired a global nature. To understand what is going on in the world and the requirement to appreciate the interconnectedness and interdependence of peoples to respect and protect cultural diversity is required to ensure the very survival and continuity of human civilization.

This is a difficult assignment for American educators. NCLB already has squeezed out most room for any subjects other than what is being tested. The frightening description of job losses due to offshoring, trade deficit, foreign terrorists and the rise of developing countries and how children in other countries will "eat the lunch" of American children adds to the challenge for educators to convince a very American-centric public that helping our children develop a sense of global citizenship is actually a good thing.

Our well-being is is forever connected to that of other people in other countries. Our prosperity cannot be sustained in isolation from other countries.

"We know test scores don't predict the future of other individuals and nations. Author Daniel Goleman wrote the following in his classic book Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ: "One of psychology's open secret is the relative inability of grades, IQ or SAT scores, desite their popular mystique, to predict unerringly who will succeed in life..At best, IQ contributes about 20% to the factors that determine life success, which leaves 80% to other forces."

I have written several blogs saying that there is too much emphasis on test scores. If we want to retain the creativity that has always separated this country from many others, especially in times of conflict, will not come from holding schools accountable for just adequate yearly progress in test scores. AP, AYP and similar measures have the greatest potential to destroy students' chances of success by forcing schools to narrow their curriculum, teachers to teach to the test and the public to adopt a single criteria to measure the success of students, teachers and schools. It aims to equip our children with knowledge easily found in other countries while squelching creativity and talents that are truly valuable.

"Instead of becoming more like others who are eager to become Americans, American education needs to be more American-to preserve flexibility, protect individuality and promote multiple intelligences. American education also needs to become more global - adopt a global perspective, add foreign languages and cultures and advocate global inter-realtionships."

Many people in Peoria thought it was wrong to bring in Chinese teachers and they made some good points. So many kids have no interest in learning and can hardly read and write. Often, at levels far below the level of many of thier peers. We must accelerate separating those who do not see the advantage of learning, after repeated failures of parents and teachers to show them why they need to learn, especially to read and reason well, from many who are eager to learn all they can. We fail because too many people believe one can only succeed without a higher education degree. We fail because we believe all our kids are higher level college material. They are not. Just because someone graduates from a college or university and makes more money than another or has an impressive title, does not make that person a greater success. Life was never going to a utopia where everybody is a Chief. Getting kids to believe that they are all going to be Chiefs' is a major failing of our American system.

You will not find my name in the top half of any high school or college graduating class. But I would not trade the creativity I acquired for all the rigourous, structured "rote" learning of any American or Asian school. Now this rote learning in America is driving many kids out of school before they are ready to accept and handle responsibility. They are not being sold or buying why they need to study and learn and pass all types of tests other than grade tests. And many teachers are caught in the middle; good scores or you are not a good teacher.

Too bad.

Creative people have ideas, behaviors, beliefs and lifestyles that that deviate from the norm and tradition. Research has found that, in general, tolerance of deviation from tradition and norm results in more creativity. Without American creativity, we would today probably not be a free country.

Much of the content of this blog comes from Yong Zhoa, director of the U.S.-China Center for Research on Educational Excellence at Michigan State University.


Merle Widmer said...

One of my old blogs from 2008. If you are interested in the potential Illinois American Water company buyout, just enter "Waterlogged" . My position back then has not changed. My position was instrumental in George Jacob's 6th NO vote.

charlie said...

Hi Merle. Longtime fan, just this morning discovered your blog. Ever since Craig's list cancelled their rants and raves section of the site, I have felt like there is no way to express or convey the horrid feeling of impotence I feel at today's idiocy. The city cannot do anything properly and to let our rapidly detroiting city "Flint" our water would be.... stupid? Anyhow lifelong Peorian planning a strategic withdrawl from the city first, and I'm afraid my state next.