In our increasingly fast-paced, interconnected global economy and world community, every issue we face is becoming more complex. Whether these issues are local or global, whether they relate to health care, the environment, governance, poverty, science, technology, or international relations, the challenges we face in this increasingly interconnected and multilayered world are becoming more complicated. That being the case, the only way to effectively address these increasingly complex issues is to develop in our populace a corresponding increase in creativity. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, if we are to solve the problems we have created, we must think at a higher level than when we created them.
Speaking of a higher level, the impact of creativity in our society and culture is even more profound than one might expect. Specifically, throughout the history of mankind, it is creativity that has driven innovation, invention, transformation, and progress, whether relating to ideas, inventions, advancements in medicine and technology, or social change.
Stated differently, creativity is the original seed of literally every single advancement in civilization and humankind. Any idea, innovative theory, or approach to a problem was conceived and driven by a spark of creativity. It is that spark of creativity that allows us to look at an issue or problem in a different way, leading to novel solutions and transformational advancements.
From early man figuring out the usefulness of the wheel to Johannes Gutenberg inventing the printing press in the mid-1400s, to Ben Franklin, with his kite experiment, discovering electricity in the 1700s, to John Roebling designing the suspension bridge mid the 1800s, to
Alexander Fleming discovering penicillin in the early 1900s; all these discoveries and advancements started with a spark of creativity. That spark resulted in a higher level of thinking, turning an idea into a ground-breaking theory, innovative invention, or game-changing discovery. That initial creative spark eventually produced social, cultural, economic, and scientific progress. The creativity that drives out-of-the-box, next-level thinking is literally the fuel that powers civilization’s progress. Without those sparks of creativity and next-level thinking, we’d still be living in caves.
If the above is true, our response should be to reconsider the fundamental purpose of our educational system. Yes, math, reading, science, and technology are vitally important subject matter and should be supported and emphasized accordingly. However, that emphasis should not come at the expense of starving the subject matter that spurs and sparks all innovation in those fields. That subject matter is music and the arts. We can expose students to all the math, science, technology, etc., concepts in the world, but innovation and advancement in those fields will never be realized, reached, and leveraged without sparks of creativity. In other words, while we should be investing in the solid fuel that drives and feeds knowledge, all that investment is fruitless unless we invest equally in the subject matter and curriculum that sparks and ignites that fuel.
Clearly, the development of a creative workforce is key to our nation’s future economic, scientific, and geopolitical success. That being the case, why is it that when school budget cuts are necessary, music and art programs are often the first activities cut? A more effective and strategic approach would be for educational and community leaders to reconsider which subjects and activities are best suited for encouraging and developing the creative potential of students. Everyone has the seeds of creativity within them, and those seeds can be developed and nurtured. Thus, a major, if not the major, focus of our educational system should be a commitment to instilling in our populace a greater capacity for creativity and fully leveraging those resources that most effectively develop those talents and characteristics.