Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Creativity in a Jiff

I've mostly steered clear of the education of my own children, but in one area I made a concerted effort.  I encouraged them to pun.  If other parents try this, know it means tolerating a lot of groaners, for years on end, perhaps a decade or more. Now both boys are in college and they are able to produce some decent ones, in context and on the fly.

A few weeks ago after the third or fourth day of our house being renovated, feeling like a total prisoner because big plastic sheets blocked entrance to the kitchen area, I poured myself a stiff martini, only to spill half of it as I tried to make my way through the blockade.  I started cursing pretty loudly.  My younger son asked me what's wrong.  I told him what happened.  He replied, "I guess that drink's on the house."  Voilà.  

So while I believe that creativity can be taught, or at least strongly encouraged, I am suspicious that it can be learned quickly, say in one semester.  Take the deceptively simple looking suggestion from the paragraph below, rephrase a problem as a question.  What's not in the paragraph, nor elsewhere in the piece, is how much time must be spent prior to the reframing activity, simply to get familiar with what is going on.  Most students don't know to do that.  It's extraordinarily time consuming, but also extraordinarily valuable because in that early investigation the person will learn what is at issue, while beforehand the person has at best a vague idea. 

It's well and good to talk about failure.  But people don't seem to talk about playing with something as a way to get familiar with it.  Absent that, I'm skeptical that any good can come from formal education aimed to advance creativity. 

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