How often do you ask this? More importantly, how often did you ask this? Wondering and asking "why" is a powerful determinant of creativity. Ironically, it's something we "breed" out of our children when they're young. I think it's mostly because adults get tired of being asked it at home, and when they're in school, it's because teachers (also adults I suppose) are also tired of being asked.
Sir Ken Robinson (if you haven't seen him speak, click on the image to the right; if you have seen it, click anyway - I've watched it at least 4-5 times) defines creativity as "the process of having original ideas that have value." He argues that creativity should be as important in schools as literacy.
Sir Ken further argues (I couldn't agree more) that our schools in their ever-mechanical approach actually extract creativity from our children because of the way they measure "achievement," how they "enforce" discipline and adherence to structure, and worst how the "wrong" answer or approach is so actively discouraged as to impede the emergence of anything but a bland, conformist child. "If you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original."
Newsweek published The Creativity Crisis this month, where among other things, they talk about the correlation between a student's score on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking and their "success" in life (entrepreneurs, inventors, college presidents, authors, doctors, diplomats, and software developers).
I've written here and here about how the values and needs of the industrial revolution have polluted the idea of a public education being about helping every child achieve their greatest self. As I stated during a recent interview on edReformer: "It feels like Education America has become an end unto itself – i.e. the system is less about whether children graduate prepared for the world vs. whether they went through the process of going to the school. The former is righteous, the latter smacks of too many administrators and mid-level bureaucrats getting in the way of people with a legitimate desire to help our children be the best they can be."
Voices like that of Sir Ken, and Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman (authors of the Newsweek article) are important, but not enough if the goal is to reshape Education America or any other country's system.
The most critical voices are parents and employers. The former because they are (or are supposed to be) their children's advocates, and because they are voters and hence valuable to elected officials. The latter because they are the "reason" that education exists in the mind of most people/parents (to prepare kids to earn money). In effect, the employer has the real power, and the parent is one of the strongest advocates of their needs.
If employers don't want creativity, parents won't demand it in the classroom. If employers stopped hiring graduates of school factories, parents would take action. I had dinner this weekend with two very cool people who work for an education foundation, and we were talking about how difficult it is to affect real change.
What if instead of trying to change teachers or drive common standards or curriculum, etc., these foundations went straight to employers to "help" them become stronger advocates for better job candidates? What if they were able to get these employers eliminate the requirement for an accreditation to get a job? What if they were willing to put a bit more energy into the recruitment and filtering process, but focus on the person and their ability vs. what some piece of paper said they could do?
What if the foundation in question invested in a service that helped candidates better represent their true capabilities and not just what the transcript said? Imagine how by building a whole new way of marrying candidates to employers, a foundation with a relatively small investment could create fundamental change in the education system without ever touching it. Now imagine how parents would glom on to this and push their children, and their children's schools to make sure they were prepared for this new world.
Creativity requires that you be prepared to be wrong; if we're not willing to try new approaches, we will forever live up to Einstein's definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.