We can show fairly conclusively that all our children can create. The challenging part is that there is no magic moment of creation. Creators spend almost all their time creating, persevering despite doubt, failure, ridicule, and rejection until they succeed in making something new and useful. There are no tricks, shortcuts, or get-creative-quick schemes. The process is ordinary, even if the outcome is not.
Creating is not magic but work, and we must teach this to our children.
The best artists, scientists, engineers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and other creators are the ones who keep taking steps by finding new problems, new solutions, and then new problems again. The root is innovation is exactly the same as it was when our species was born: looking at something and thinking, “I can make this better.”
The vast majority—98 percent—of teachers say creating is so important that it should be taught daily, but when tested, they nearly always favor less creative children over more creative children.
This is not restricted to schools, and it persists into adulthood. Decision makers and authority figures in business, science, and government all say they value creation, but when tested, they do not value creators.
Why? Because people who are more creative also tend to be more playful, unconventional, and unpredictable, and all of this makes them harder to control. No matter how much we say we value creation, deep down, most of us value control more. And so we fear and favor familiarity. Rejecting is a reflex.
Click images for draft of New Rochelle Magazine
Steve Jobs said in a February 1996 Wired
Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.
Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.
Steve Jobs expressed this same idea much earlier in a June 1982 Academy of Achievement speech:
If you’re gonna make connections which are innovative … you have to not have the same bag of experiences as everyone else does or else you’re going to make the same connections [as everybody else], and then you won’t be innovative, and then nobody will give you an award.
In this same speech, Jobs said something else that is very profound:
In my mind growing up [I thought that] the world was just sorta something that happened… and you didn’t really try to change it. You just tried to find your place in it and have the best life that you could… and there were some pretty bright people running it. As you begin to interact with some of these people you find that they are not a lot different than you.
Again in a later interview, Jobs goes into more depth on the idea that the people running the world are not any smarter than you are:
When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world.
Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money.
That’s a very limited life.
Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.
Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.
There is a set of advantages that have to do with material resources, and there is a set that have to do with the absence of material resources — and the reason underdogs win as often as they do is that the latter is sometimes every bit the equal of the former.
For some reason, this is very difficult lesson for us to learn. We have, I think, a very rigid and limited definition of what an advantage is. We think of things as helpful that actually aren’t and think of other things as unhelpful that in reality leave us stronger and wiser.
~ David and Goliath
In a review
of David and Goliath,
Seth Godin states:
The point [of Malcolm Gladwell’s book] is that we are ALL capable of doing great work, ALL capable of doing work that matters, ALL capable of heroism. Why then, do some succeed and others never even try?
Silicon Valley works for the very reason that a broken inner-city fails. Because of cultural expectations. People become heroes when they’re surrounded by a culture that allows them to dream it’s possible.
We spend a lot of time thinking about the ways that prestige and resources and belonging to elite institutions make us better off. We don’t spend enough time thinking about the ways in which these kinds of material advantages limit our options.
~ David and Goliath
And as we learn in the video below featuring Will Smith, Anthony Robbins and Sir Ken Robinson, there is a redemptive quality to making a choice. You are not a victim of your past. A lack of resources is never the defining factor. You were born an artist [extremely creative], the trick is to remain an artist [extremely creative] as you grow up. So do something, make a choice but be prepare to be wrong.
You may not have the money, you may not have the Supreme Court, but that is not the defining factor…. The defining factor is never resources it’s resourcefulness…. If you have human emotion…
~ Anthony Robbins
From a video essay above about creativity we learn:
All of history’s greatest figures achieved success in almost exactly the same way. But rather than celebrating this part of the creative process we ignore it.
This missing chapter in the story of success reveals the secret to doing meaningful work. But in the modern world, full of distraction, do we have what it takes to do great things?
We are ALL capable of doing great work, ALL capable of doing work that matters, ALL capable of heroism.
And as Daniel Pink tells us in Drive:
When it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system–which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators–doesn’t work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements: 1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives. 2. Mastery— the urge to get better and better at something that matters. 3. Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.
The real makers of modern schooling weren’t at all who we think.
||Not Cotton Mather
|or Horace Mann
||or John Dewey.
The real makers of modern schooling were leaders of the new American industrialist class, men like:
||Andrew Carnegie, the steel baron…
|John D. Rockefeller, the duke of oil…
||Henry Ford, master of the assembly line which compounded steel and oil into a vehicular dynasty…
|and J.P. Morgan, the king of capitalist finance…
Men like these, and the brilliant efficiency expert Frederick W. Taylor, who inspired the entire “social efficiency” movement of the early twentieth century, along with providing the new Soviet Union its operating philosophy and doing the same job for Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany; men who dreamed bigger dreams than any had dreamed since Napoleon or Charlemagne, these were the makers of modern schooling.
The Business of Schooling
If modern schooling has a “Fourth Purpose,” there must be an earlier three. Traditional forms of instruction in America, even before the Revolution, had three specific purposes:
- To make good people
- To make good citizens
- And to make each student find some particular talents to develop to the maximum.
The new mass schooling which came about slowly but continuously after 1890, had a different purpose, a “fourth” purpose.
The fourth purpose steadily squeezed the traditional three to the margins of schooling; in the fourth purpose, school in America became like school in Germany, a servant of corporate and political management.
We should reveal the mechanism of mind control training, habits, and attitudes.
Children were literally trained in bad habits and bad attitudes! Teachers and principals, “scientifically”certified in teachers college practices, were made unaware of the invisible curriculum they really taught.
The secret of commerce, that kids drive purchases, meant that schools had to become psychological laboratories where training in consumerism was the central pursuit.
Since bored people are the best consumers, school had to be a boring place, and since childish people are the easiest customers to convince, the manufacture of childishness, extended into adulthood, had to be the first priority of factory schools. Naturally, teachers and administrators weren’t let in on this plan; they didn’t need to be. If they didn’t conform to instructions passed down from increasingly centralized school offices, they didn’t last long.
In the new system, schools were gradually re-formed to meet the pressing need of big businesses to have standardized customers and employees, standardized because such people are predictable in certain crucial ways by mathematical formulae. Business (and government) can only be efficient if human beings are redesigned to meet simplified specifications. As the century wore on, school spaces themselves were opened bit by bit to commercialization.
These processes didn’t advance evenly. Some localities resisted more than others, some decades were more propitious for the plan than others. Especially during and just after national emergencies like WWI, the Depression, WWII, and the Sputnik crisis, the scheme rocketed forward; in quieter moments it was becalmed or even forced to give up some ground.
But even in moments of greatest resistance, the institutions controlling the fourth purpose—great corporations, great universities, government bureaus with vast powers to reward or punish, and corporate journalism—increasingly centralized in fewer and fewer hands throughout the twentieth century, kept a steady hand on the tiller. They had ample resources to wear down and out wait the competition.
The prize was of inestimable value–control of the minds of the young.
School Becomes a Dangerous Place
After 1900 the new mass schooling arenas slowly became impersonal places where children were viewed as HUMAN RESOURCES. Whenever you hear this term, you are certain to be in the presence of employees of the fourth purpose, however unwitting. Human resource children are to be molded and shaped for something called “The Workplace,” even though for most of American history, American children were reared to expect to create their own workplaces.
In the new workplace, most Americans were slated to work for large corporations or large government agencies, if they worked at all.
This revolution in the composition of the American dream produced some unpleasant byproducts. Since systematic forms of employment demand that employees specialize their efforts in one or another function of systematic production, then clear thinking warns us that incomplete people make the best corporate and government employees.
Earlier Americans like Madison and Jefferson were well aware of this paradox, which our own time has forgotten. And if that is so, mutilation in the interests of later social efficiency has to be one of the biggest tasks assigned to forced schooling.
Not only was the new form of institution spiritually dangerous as a matter of course, but school became a physically dangerous place as well.
What better way to habituate kids to abandoning trust in their peers (and themselves) than to create an atmosphere of constant low-level stress and danger, relief from which is only available by appeal to authority? And many times not even then!
Horace Mann had sold forced schooling to industrialists of the mid-nineteenth century as the best “police” to create moral children, but ironically, as it turned out in the twentieth century, big business and big government were best served by making schoolrooms antechambers to Hell.
School Becomes An Arena of Meaningless Pressure
As the twentieth century progressed, and particularly after WWII, schools evolved into behavioral training centers, laboratories of experimentation in the interests of corporations and the government. The original model for this development had been Prussian Germany, but few remembered.
School became jail-time to escape if you could, arenas of meaningless pressure as with the omnipresent “standardized” exams, which study after study concluded were measuring nothing real.
|For instance, take the case of Bill Bradley. . .
||and George W. Bush,
two of the four finalists in the 2000 presidential race. Bradley had a horrifying 480 on the verbal part of his own SATs, yet graduated from Princeton, won a Rhodes Scholarship, and became a senator; Bush graduated from Yale, became governor of Texas, and president of the United States—with a mediocre 550.
If you can become governor, senator, and president with mediocre SAT scores, what exactly do the tests measure?
Perhaps they sort out good scientists from bad? If so, how is it that both the scientists principally involved in the Human Genome Project have strange scholarly backgrounds to say the least!
Francis S. Collins, the head of the public portion, was homeschooled, never followed any type of formal curriculum, and is a bornagain Christian.
J. Craig Venter
Craig Venter was a very bad boy in high school, a surfing bum who nearly flunked out, and he didn’t go to college after graduation, but into the U.S. Army as an enlisted man before being shipped off to Vietnam!
School As a Place of Bewilderment and Boredom
As you’ll learn when you read The Underground History of American Education
the new purpose of schooling—to serve business and government—could only be achieved efficiently by isolating children from the real world, with adults who themselves were isolated from the real world, and everyone in the confinement isolated from one another.
Only then could the necessary training in boredom and bewilderment begin. Such training is necessary to produce dependable consumers and dependent citizens who would always look for a teacher to tell them what to do in later life, even if that teacher was an ad man or television anchor.
The rationale, history, and dynamics of Fourth Purpose school procedure are carefully examined in The Underground History of American Education.
[L]earning is the human activity that least needs manipulation by others; that most learning is the result not of instruction but of participation by learners in meaningful settings. School, however, makes them identify their personal, cognitive growth with elaborate planning and manipulation.
~ Ivan Illich
You can’t just give someone a creativity injection. You have to create an environment for curiosity and a way to encourage people and get the best out of them.
~ Sir Ken Robinson