Imagine: An Argument for Harnessing the Boundless Imagination of Youth and Re-Incorporating Creative Thinking, the Arts, and a Healthy Disregard for Convention Back into the American Classroom
A 2009 scientific study by a Sino-Japanese cooperative, lead by neuroscientist Ming Song found that cognitive abilities showed increased capacity for daydreaming with increased acquisition of knowledge, leading the reader to understand that learning fuels imagination, which, in turn, drives a need for more knowledge, which opens up imaginative possibilities.
Albert Einstein, definitively one of the most brilliant minds of the last 100 years said that, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." If, in fact, Imagination is more important than knowledge how then can imagination be used in child-rearing, early-childhood development, education, business, industry, and even in government? Learning to tap into our imagination is the key to personal and professional success. But, more importantly, turning our education culture to embrace the creative mind and to teaching creative thinking skills will only enhance our role in the world. But how can we quantify creativity? How do we teach imagination? How do we empower innovation in the classroom?
Jonah Lehrer, neurologist and writer recently released a work. "Imagine", that challenges the notion that Imagination is this impossible aim reserved only for creative types. Over the last decade research is beginning to highlight this fallacy. Studies show that a great number of our cognitive tools are in fact, gateways and playrooms for our Imagination. This idea of creativity and its potential impact on our society is the lifeblood of a not-for-profit-organization that I am in the process of establishing. Inspiring people to be innovative and creative is a passion of mine and it is one that, as I learn ever more about myself, has inspired me, and been the impetus for many of my most pivotal and successful choices. Imagination isn’t this ineffable dream world but rather an essential tool we use daily, a tool that is only made more powerful by a society that continually challenges norms and thinks beyond convention. Elementary and secondary education today in many American schools seems to confine students to the rigors of the predictable and predefined; this must change.
While in Jamaica in January I was able to observe yet another phenomenon of culture. While working with children, not one of them struggled to find something to do during play time. They were charged with that boundless energy of youth and taking what we would commonly toss out as trash and making from it an elaborate game using only their own creativity as the source for play. While interviewing different groups of educators, a prevailing opinion showed itself, "We cannot succeed because we do not have the money to succeed." Then came the voice of reason, one man said that, "Jamaica cannot look to the US or Britain for answers we must create success the Jamaican way." His society must innovate their own way to a better future. What is the influence of funding on creative thinking in the classroom?
Over the course of this study I was also able to travel to China, where professionals in cutting-edge educational programs there, commented on the burgeoning Chinese culture, “In China,” the educator said, “We can duplicate anything. But if you ask us to come up with, or imagine our own product we cannot. We don’t know how.” Music and the arts are so highly valued by China, yet, admittedly the nation as a whole struggles with creativity. What is the impact of culture on creativity?
The greatest minds in our history were young, renaissance minded individuals, with a rebellious soul, that embraced the power of creativity; people like Thomas Jefferson, Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, Duke Ellington, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerburg. Our society is beginning to ignore the most essential part of the American product; our unconventional, innovative, and creative ability to see the world beyond its limitations. The American experience isn’t defined solely by our expertise; the American experience is defined by our innovation. Innovation is the product of creativity, imagination, the endless possibilities of youth, and our yearning for new, more effective, more phenomenal ways of viewing the world. In the words of a dear friend, "You Americans aren’t the smartest people, but you sure dream big." How has American history shaped our culture and encouraged imagination and independent, creative thinking?
This project, this research is in its infancy and will be a lifelong exploration. I hope that my indefatigable quest to explore the human capacity for creativity will only but begin at Boise State University. I know that what I’ve discovered thus far is worth mentioning and worth sharing. I may only be asking questions but hopefully those questions will inspire more questions and answers far beyond my own immediate impact and allow others to see that, "Imagination is more important than Knowledge."
Methods: Currently methods consist solely of comparative readings of medical, scholarly, and opinion works by recognized authorities in various fields. Methods will expand to interviews and human-subject observations.