That’s not to say nothing is happening stateside. In Wisconsin, and even right here in the Chippewa Valley, many organizations are working to address these issues. One organization, the Wisconsin Arts Board, is working hard to secure adequate funding for programs in arts education and economic development, as well as lend support to creative industries and non-profits. Locally, a group of interested teachers, parents and others are working with the Eau Claire Area School District to open ENGAGE, a public charter school for creative arts and culture (full disclosure: I was recently invited to join their governance board). Likely located somewhere in downtown Eau Claire, ENGAGE will be open in the fall of 2011 with approximately 44 students in grades six through nine, using a curriculum focused on project-based learning.
You can’t open a newspaper without hearing about the need for innovative solutions to a variety of problems. Unfortunately you can’t get a truly innovative advancement in any field without functional creativity behind it, and you can’t get that without building imaginations. It takes practice in broad divergent thinking and intense convergent thinking. No amount of drilling facts and figures into kids’ heads will result in adults capable of innovating a cure for cancer or of making that next big technological breakthrough. That’s an old model based on old paradigms. If we want to push for innovation, we need to first push for imagination.
At the leading edge of much of this thought is the aforementioned Sir Ken Robinson. A brilliant author and enaging speaker, videos of his TED Talks and other public appearances have been viewed millions of times online. I’d like to leave you with a few lines from his most recent book, The Element: “Our best hope for the future is to develop a new paradigm of human capacity to meet a new era of human existence. We need to evolve a new appreciation of the importance of nurturing human talent along with an understanding of how human talent expresses itself differently in every individual. We need to create environments – in our schools, in our workplaces, and in our public offices – where every person is inspired to grow creatively. ... Because as the world evolves, the very future of our communities and institutions will depend on it.”