Imagine Creative Education

Sir Ken Robinson gave three TED talks on the importance of creativity in education, viewed over 80 million times. He said, “imagination is what fundamentally sets us apart from the rest of life on earth, very little does truthfully.” He defined this as “the ability to bring into mind things that aren’t present to our senses”, and perhaps most profoundly stated, “it is the source of every form of human achievement, and the one thing we are systematically jeopardizing in the way we educate our children.”

The artist and architect Frank Gehry, has said, “Architecture and any art can transform a person, even save someone. It can for children – for anyone. It still does for me.” This is why we launched Turnaround Arts California to invest in arts education for underserved schools, because it had “saved” both of us, and we knew that too many young people didn’t have access; specifically kids from lower income neighborhoods and children of color.

Human beings flourish or perish within the systems we have created over time. Educational policy in America has become overly focused on “outputs” or test scores, at the expense of the children we are entrusted with educating. Sir Ken Robinson felt that this narrow data driven system ultimately created a small universe of “winners”, while many students lost out. We mistake testing ability for intelligence when we are limited to narrow, (profitable) test-driven subject matter, usually limited to traditional literacy and numeracy. We must reframe academic “ability” to include social and emotional competence and promote the development of dispositions like curiosity, confidence, empathy, and creativity – which the arts do innately.

Let’s collectively imagine a new normal, a new commitment to each other and to our schools, teachers, principals, and children. It is imagination that fuels our spirit and urges us to chase an innate vision of a world that celebrates creativity, one another, and above all, peace.

Malissa Feruzzi Shriver is an artist, arts education advocate, and the President of the non profit Turnaround Arts California working with the Pritzker Prize winning Architect Frank Gehry on restoring arts education to underserved communities in California.