Explore Nueroscience in Education with Dr. Lori Desautels

A Creative Crisis Calls for Educational Overhaul

A Creative Crisis Calls for Educational Overhaul

“All truth passes through three stages:  First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”  Arthur Schopenhauer 1788-1860.

What is the truth of the state of our educational system? I believe this is defined from one’s perspective based on experiences, culture, research and beliefs.  It feels to be that we are in an extravagant state of educational unrest and chaos at the state and national level and this is neither good nor bad, right or wrong, but to think we are reforming through creating more charter schools, revamping the curriculum with increased rigor of math, sciences and linguistics is completely out of alignment with what companies, business ventures and professions are needing to not only survive but thrive in this ever changing global age and economy!

As motivational speaker, author and teacher Ken Robinson states, “The rate and scale of change engulfing the world is creating a tidal shift in how people live and earn a living.”  We now need to be equally radical in how we think of education reforming a compulsory system.  I am an instructor for Teach for America and The New Teacher Project , two national transition to teaching programs that are service based with the sole intention of raising academic achievement, closing achievement gaps and raising test scores  where slogans in some schools read, “college or die!” These are incredibly powerful programs which are bringing hope to impoverished schools where students and educators are flailing in pools of unmotivated, bored and failing academics, assessments, relationships and overall success rates. But there is a paradox! Many of these 22 year old graduates are entering these programs not only because they want to make a difference in the world, but because for many, the degree they attained in higher education is not bringing the job or profession they envisioned. The degree for which they worked hard to attain is not marketable or viable! Here are some statistics about the over inflation of academic and compulsory education from Ken Robinson’s book entitled, “Out of Our Minds”.

“Most national policies for education are dedicated to increasing the output of college graduates. The policies may be working, but too often the graduates are not. In the last thirty years, the number of graduates on the job market has more than doubled. The sheer volume of graduates has generated an unexpected crisis in graduate recruitment. There are too many graduates for the number and type of jobs desired and needed. “

Our educational system is still based on the Industrial Model which began over 100 years ago and was based on math and language acquisition proficiency for industrial positions where 80% of the work force was needed for manual labor and 20% for administrative positions. This has all changed on many levels and for many reasons. In the 1950’sthrough the 1980’s jobs were acquired and held over an entire career lifetime. Our adolescent students today are expected to hold 10-20 various positions within a variety of businesses and corporations within their working years.  Our global economy, technologies, diversified cultures, and communication systems are changing with an unprecedented pace calling for professionals who think creatively, communicate with empathy and can intuit the feelings of another with a balance of head and heart. Employers desire persons who have the ability to manage complex organizations, critically think through intricate problems, design and innovate in professions that are novel and lend themselves to collaborative efforts.  Many companies are finding that graduates are rubric and robotically dependent when it comes to thinking outside the box!

Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sum reports that as many as 50 percent of college graduates under the age of 25 are underutilized, meaning they’re either working no job at all, working a part-time job or working a job outside of the college labor market — say, as a barista or a bartender.

Mark Kantrowitz, who came up with the $27,200 figure based on the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study and publishes the financial aid sites Fastweb.com and FinAid.org, is concerned that debt at graduation is outpacing starting salaries. It’s a worry that Muller and many of her classmates around the country also share.

According to research, we are living in a time when adaptive behaviors are critically important for success.  Yes, we need the rigor of math and linguistics, science and technology, but we also desperately need the creative genius of each and every student to be untapped and remembered. In David Schenk’s most recent book, “The Genius in All of Us” he reminds us, “Limitations in achievement are not due to inadequate genetic assets, but in our ability to tap into what we already have.”  What does this new science of genetics mean for educators and students? We now know that the environment we create, the opportunities we provide in the classroom are integrated and interact with the thousands of genes to produce dynamic strengths and expressions of multiple intelligences.  Children develop only as the environment demands development.  As teachers and parents, we can encourage a growth mindset where persons believe that their innate abilities can be developed. When this mind set is fired up, success is imminent.  Intelligence is a process and an ongoing expansion, and policy makers have forgotten that present day educational reform in many ways is stifling this human potential.  As educators, we must recognize that abilities are achievable skills and not innate abilities. Failure is a learning opportunity!  Classroom mottos that stated, “Genius=emotional drive and extraordinary effort” would be celebrated by all those who desire to manifest and diversify their talents and successes!

The following are a list of activities and strategies to embed in academic standards that encourage creative thought and critical thinking skills.

Middle and High School

  1. 1. Design a power point of math operations to share and teach to a younger group of students or present to students who are being tutored.
  2. 2. Create a comic book on a “required reading list book” where students can imagine conversations, share tales, and develop personalities and conflicts with illustrations, present day experiences and prior knowledge.
  3. 3. Create and design a plan for world peace to present to the United Nations and President Obama Accompanying this plan, design a world flag and anthem with lyrics and a catchy melody.
  4. 4. Investigate the new science of genetics, cellular memory and string theory. Predict three ways how these will affect our future.
  5. 5. Create and develop computer games and a robot embracing human intelligence that could be taught many tasks which you envision.
  6. 6. Create a business for a summer job and develop an aspect of the business that is unique and marketable. For example, a car wash or detailing business where 10% of the proceeds go to a service organization of your choice.
  7. 7. Choose a service organization and write a business plan/proposal to an organization for sponsorship to help with the costs of providing services.
  8. 8. Create a reality TV show in an area of interest and expertise, developing the script, characters and experiences the show will share.
  9. 9. Write an article on an experience or talent you possess. Submit it to a newspaper or journal for publication.
  10. 10. A poetry or open mike night where students share their written work with the public.

3 Responses to “A Creative Crisis Calls for Educational Overhaul

  • Sherry,

    You are the best and thank you for your thoughts and words on this web site! This is such an interesting time in education and I feel reflection, for which you have modeled here is so very important and is rooted in change! Sorry for the late reply!

    Love to you,


  • Thank you Sherry for these shared thoughts and experiences!

  • Sherry Henson
    13 years ago

    About 16 years ago I was asked to develop an after school program for high school and middle school students who were not successful in the regular school setting. We started with 4 students the first night and had over 160 by the end of the year. After two years, the district decided to make it a full day program at its own site. Eventually, we grew to 600 students. As I started planning and developing this school, I said to myself that I was going to say “yes” to all of the requests that for so many years I had to say “no” while working in a large urban high school. If a student needed to change his schedule, teacher, hours, I would change it. Why make a student and teacher stay together for a year if they don’t work well together? The alternative education statute gave us far more flexibility than the regular schools, and we used every ounce of it. The name of our school was the KIND School and it still exists under a different name and different leadership after my retirement. We were very, very successful helping our students become successful, many of whom had very little, if any success, in their school history. Instead of talking about what changes needed to be made, we tried new techniques, new ideas, new changes. If something didn’t work, we simply tried something else. There are small pockets of this change going on many places. We need more of it. Many of my former students are working all around the city. When they see me they introduce me to their bosses and always have wonderful things to say about what the KIND School did for them. I wanted to share this story with others who are trying so hard to make education work for every student! We cannot afford to lose even one!

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