Can Creativity be a Social Justice issue?

Posted On: 16 August 2016

If you are a teacher, you have probably met this student. If you are a principal, especially a middle school principal, you have probably met this student as well. They may not be your favourite student.....they question your authority, your routines, your 'rules', and your very lessons. They may seem defiant, not completing their work and refusing to 'buckle down' and get something done. They may be disruptive in the classroom. They may be the 'class clown'. Or they may sit quietly and never seem to be really 'there'. This student will probably not match your idea of the 'ideal' student. This student probably does NOT have great marks. This student could very well have a strength in creativity, but will not soon get much credit for that skill.

In school, we have a currency.....marks. If we have students who are very creative (and I don't just mean that they can draw pretty pictures or make great cover pages for their book reports) but are not very 'academic', then they will not likely have good marks in public school. Check out my previous blog on 'Defining Creativity' to understand what I mean by 'creative' students. Although this is not always the case, those disruptive students who may make the class laugh and the teacher cringe might just have what Gardner calls the "Creative Mind". The quiet child who seems off in space all the time may have a "Synthesizing Mind". There is more to education than creating a space where the "Disciplined Minds" may flourish. We have to offer more than that.

If our schools remain focused on teaching 'stuff' (which many, many wise educators and researchers believe is NOT the way to go) then we will continue to shortchange those students who don't succeed in that environment. These are the creative, reflective, synthesizing, imaginative, inquiring students who know how to rally their peers behind them, and solve complex problems. And the problem may not be the math problem that you want them to be doing, but the problem just might be how to sneak a kitten into the classroom, or how to get better food in the cafeteria. These students don’t get any credit for their creativity. They earn no school ‘currency’. So...they may be the ‘poor’ of our school, in terms of the currency of marks. This, in my mind, makes it a social justice issue. I am not suggesting that we give marks for demonstrating the ability to break school rules without getting caught, but I am saying that we need to find a way to integrate creativity into our teaching in ways that allow everyone to be successful. And I continue to work on that everyday in my own teaching. If you want some ideas, or have some to share, let me know.