Today's Academics

Crunching VS Creativity

In recent years, many elementary level schools throughout the United States have begun a new trend in their testing and grading methods. For those of you who haven't yet experiences this change, this shift in teaching  is moving away from a child producing a one and only, true, "right" answer. The current view encourages the child's thought process used in arriving at a particular conclusion. In fact, a child might even get the "wrong" answer to the mechanics of a math problem but still get a positive score if the logic they used to obtain their answer shows basic understand and creative problem solving.

While this article is not the place for the larger issues of that debate, we do want to make the point that this newer approach stems in part from educator's concerns with our children's future place in the competitive global workplace. U.S. student's grades have been lagging behind those of other industrial nations, particularly in the science and mathematics arenas. Educators fear that our children's ability to think in open and creative ways appeared to be suffering! Without creativity where are the scientists, discoverers, artists, inventors? Where are those unique individuals whose questioning stretches beyond the ordinary and leads us into new and different solutions to problems or even blasting us beyond where we thought we could go?

A primary goal of this trend in promoting the thought process even if temporarily at the expense of the "correct" answer is to encourage our children's openness to new ways of looking at their world. By utilizing creativity or expansive thinking while at the same time combining practical, logical, real world solutions our children can go beyond areas they might have previously felt limited to achieving. In the past, the person who could memorize and regurgitate exactly what they were told were considered successful. Now, perhaps the child who isn't the obvious science wiz might be the one to bring to a debate those missing perspectives which could unlock doors to new understanding.

There are, in fact, organizations which support this creative problem solving, skill building and open thinking. Beginning in elementary  school and continuing through high school, national and local programs are available. One such group has gone under the names of Odyssey of the Mind or Destination Imagination. Each year competitions are held where children work together as teams to use their unlimited imaginations and present solutions to a range of problems. In the past, NASA has sponsored a problem they wanted examined in new ways. Department stores turned to these competitions for ways to improve customer service.

So often we hear negative news about today's youth. These activities provide opportunities for children to come together and celebrate their minds. They cheer in gyms across the country, not one's physical prowess, but a team's mental agility.  Some in our culture are realizing that the optimism of individuals who are given a chance to come together for the opportunity to raise thinking to an even higher level is a wonderful way to advance toward a truly progressive future. Where do you stand?