plined process that requires
skill, knowledge, and control.
Obviously, it also requires imagination and inspiration. But it’s
not simply a question of
venting: It’s a disciplined path
of daily education. If you look
at some of the people we most respect for their creative
achievements, it’s because of the extraordinary insights, breakthroughs, and discipline they have brought to their work.
financial institutions, on health care, on education, there
really isn’t a time in history where you could look back and
say, “Well, of course, this is the same thing all over again.” It
isn’t. This is really new, and we’re going to need every ounce
of ingenuity, imagination, and creativity to confront these
Also, we’re living in times of massive unpredictability. The
kids who are starting school this September will be retiring—
if they ever do—around 2070. Nobody has a clue what the
world’s going to look like in five years, or even next year actually, and yet it’s the job of education to help kids make sense
of the world they’re going to live in.
You know, for my generation—I was born in 1950—we
were told that if you worked hard, went to college, and got a
regular academic degree, you’d be set for life. Well, nobody
thinks that’s true anymore, and yet we keep running our
school systems as though it were. So many people have
degrees now that an individual degree isn’t worth a fraction of
what it used to be worth. So being creative is essential to us;
it’s essential for our economy.
I work a lot with Fortune
500 companies, and they’re
always saying, “We need people
who can be innovative, who can
think differently.” If you look at
the mortality rate among
companies, it’s massive.
America is now facing the
biggest challenge it’s ever
faced—to maintain it’s position
in the world economies. All
these things demand high levels
of innovation, creativity, and
ingenuity. At the moment,
instead of promoting creativity,
I think we’re systematically
educating it out of our kids.
© SUSIE FITZHUGH
© STOCK4B/GETTY IMAGES
Is creativity at odds with a culture of standardized testing?
Why do you think creativity is especially important
The challenges we currently face are without precedent. More
people live on this planet now than at any other time in
history. The world’s population has doubled in the past 30
years. We’re facing an increasing strain on the world’s natural
resources. Technology is advancing at a headlong rate of
speed. It’s transforming how people work, think, and connect.
It’s transforming our cultural values.
If you look at the resulting strains on our political and
We have a major problem with our education systems, not just
in America, but in many of the old, industrialized countries. If
you have a system as in the United States where there’s a 30
percent high school dropout rate—in the African
American/Latino communities it’s over 50 percent, and in
some of the Native American communities it’s nearly 80
percent—you can’t just blame the kids for it. With that
amount of waste, there’s something wrong with the system—
with impersonal forms of education, with people sitting in
rows and not discovering the things that impassion them or
invigorate them or turn them on.
That’s increasingly the case with this culture of standardized
testing. It’s totally counterproductive. Looking back at our own