Friday, August 31, 2012

The Thing about Teaching "Creativity" or "Critical Thinking"

When we start talking about whether or not, say, creativity or critical thinking can be taught, one problem I think is that educated people have trouble imagining what not being taught those things (or actively having them beaten out of you) looks like.

P.L. Thomas has an example today:

Consider this scenario shared with me just yesterday by email from a teacher in an urban charter school:
Favorite student story of the day: 
I assigned their first writing project today -- a personal literacy narrative because we just finished reading the narrative of Frederick Douglass (our class mantra is “literacy is liberating”). On my rubric/guidelines I wrote,  "Don't forget to give your narrative a unique title -- this is the first thing a reader will see!"
This is the conversation that followed:

An honors student: You mean we have to title the paper ourselves?

Me (with a snarky tone): Yes. who else would title it?

All students in unison: The teacher!

Me: Are you serious?

All students: Yes

Me (took a deep breath): If I catch anyone titling their paper "My Literacy Narrative," you will lose points, and I will make you wear a name tag that says, "Hi, my name is boring."

Multiple students began frantically erasing the top of their papers.

Apparently, every paper their freshman year was titled for them. [emphasis added]

Or, put another way, is it possible schools can only cause people to lose creativity and critical thinking but not teach it?

1 comment:

Diana said...

I had a very similar experience related to 'choosing boring' in the MS I used to teach in. New class rule: Don't be Boring

The undoing of the mentality of conformity and compliance is harder to combat than you can imagine. Students stop trusting their own thoughts and voice. Exasperating.