I was at the AIGA Head, Heart, Hand conference this past week https://twitter.com/AIGAconference and it was terrific.
Incredible speakers, wonderful audience and great city–Minneapolis. I had incredible experiences–signing Creative Intelligence books, presenting on Creative Competencies and running into amazing people. But the MOST amazing experience came in the afternoon at a roundtable of about a dozen people who came to talk to me about creativity.
Most were teachers of design at design colleges around the country. We went around and talked about our teaching methods and our students. I boasted about the amazing students at Parsons, of course, and talked about using Creativity Mapping and Design Narratives.
One woman, almost in tears, shook her head and said, “you have to remember that you have students from all over the world. I teach in a small college in Mississippi. I am getting the first generation of K-12 No Child Left Behind students and all they want is for me to tell them the answers so they can get it right on a test.”
I was stunned. We now have students going to college who have spent their entire lives in classrooms focussed on Teaching to the Test. And the result? All the students know is how to take tests. Any smart teacher knows that testing is not teaching. Any smart teacher knows that testing is not learning. Testing is simply assessment. And what are we, as a nation, assessing? It is the ability to memorize facts and regurgitate them on a test–an archaic skill in a world of Google.
The professor of design from the Mississippi college said her students went “white-knuckle” when she asked them to find their own answers to design challenges. They were unprepared to “Do” creativity, to meet unexpected challenges and come up with different outcomes. And that’s exactly what we need to do today, in a world of VUCA–volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. What kind of jobs will they be able to get with their Testing skill-set? In Design? None.
We need to bring back Art, Music, blocks–progressive education that shows us how to play and innovate. No Child Left Behind is killing creativity.