The following is an excerpt of One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School, by 17-year-old Nikhil Goyal, a senior at Syosset High School in Woodbury, New York.
Can creativity be taught? Absolutely. The real question is: “How do we teach it?” In school, instead of crossing subjects and classes, we teach them in a very rigid manner. Very rarely do you witness math and science teachers or English and history teachers collaborating with each other. Sticking in your silo, shell, and expertise is comfortable. Well, it’s time to crack that shell. It’s time to abolish silos and subjects. Joichi Ito, director of the M.I.T. Media Lab, told me that rather than interdisciplinary education, which merges two or more disciplines, we need anti-disciplinary education, a term coined by Sandy Pentland, head of the lab’s Human Dynamics group.
“Today’s problems — from global poverty to climate change to the obesity epidemic — are more interconnected and intertwined than ever before and they can’t possibly be solved in the academic or research ‘silos’ of the twentieth century,” writes Frank Moss, the former head of the M.I.T. Media Lab.
Schools cannot just simply add a “creativity hour” and call it a day.
Principal at High Tech High, an innovative, project-based learning school in San Diego, California, Larry Rosenstock, points out, “If you were to hike the Appalachian trail, which would take you months and months, and you reflect upon it, you do not divide the experience into the historic, scientific, mathematic, and English aspects of it. You would look at it holistically.”
After indicating the problem at hand, scoop out the tools, research, networks, and people required to get it solved. Get out of your comfort zone.
“You can have students do laboratories and hands-on activities and learn nothing, because they are following the cookbook and going through the motions without having their brains on.”
In practice, this means the elimination of English, mathematics, history, and science class. Instead, we need to arrange the curriculum around big ideas, questions, and conundrums. What does learning look like in this model? Letting kids learn by doing — the essence of the philosophy of educator John Dewey. He wrote: “The school must represent present life — life as real and vital to the child as that which he carries on in the home, in the neighborhood, or on the playground.” Let kids travel to places, work with mentors, and inquire about the world around them.
Diana Laufenberg, former teacher at the Science Leadership Academy, described to me, “The role of inquiry is the starting point of learning. School-based education has always been about telling and getting of information, rather than exploring or investigating.” Let kids create for themselves. We can start by employing project-based learning, where students probe real world problems collaboratively. Back in 1918, William Heard Kilpatrick wrote a famous article laying out what he called the “project method”: a curriculum based on “wholehearted purposeful activity proceeding in a social environment…the essential factor [being] the presence of a dominating purpose.” In Continue reading