Education Week - April 11, 2018 - 23
crowded, teachers are overextended, and
underserved schools are starved for resources. Fortunately, there are remedies
that don't necessarily involve more money,
just re-allocating time.
The change relies on understanding the
nature of creativity. Our inventiveness
grows from our ability to absorb the outside
world and generate "what if " scenarios, extrapolating the known into the new. Everything that separates our world from that
of 10,000 years ago comes from the human
brain's everyday, lifelong neural manipulations: We take in the world and energetically refashion it.
Schools offer young minds a wider storehouse of knowledge than they would discover
on their own. However, when we only train
students to get to the right answer as reliably and efficiently as possible, we're missing
a crucial step. Knowledge shouldn't just be
a landing point-it should be a springboard.
More class time needs to be devoted not just to
mastering the material, but launching from it.
In history class, students can show their
mastery of facts by constructing alternative histories. In science courses, students
can explore science fiction prototyping, in
which they imagine a future invention and
extrapolate its effects on society. Art and
music classes shouldn't stop with imitation
of the masters; students need the chance to
remodel their inspirations.
Experiential learning isn't enough if it's
only about duplicating established results.
The telltale sign of a creative classroom is
one in which students all start from the
their potential for success. In addition, repealing the guidance would signal to everyone that
the federal government is willing to overlook the
reality of discrimination against children of color
and students with disabilities. That is the wrong
Every student deserves to attend a safe, highquality school where students, teachers, and
staff are treated with dignity and respect. Students also deserve to learn in an environment
without fear of either overpolicing or mass
shootings. And the law makes clear that students have the right to attend schools without
fear that their race will dictate the severity of
discipline school administrators mete out.
As has happened throughout our history,
young people are leading the way. While pushing for consequential solutions to gun violence,
students are marching in the streets, the halls
of Congress, and state capitals, urging our leaders to take meaningful action to stop the school
shooting epidemic taking their peers' lives. If
Secretary DeVos has her way, these students
will return to schools with fewer constitutional
protections and more discrimination. We owe it
to our nation to prevent that. n
Rights Data Collection suggest that these discriminatory practices may be widespread in classrooms and schools across the country: School officials suspend and expel black children at a rate
three times higher than white children and are
twice as likely to suspend and expel children
with disabilities than nondisabled children. In
addition, schools suspend black girls at a rate 5.5
times higher than the rate at which they suspend
white girls. For Native American girls, the suspension rate is three times the rate of their white
counterparts. While not proof of discrimination,
these numbers present compelling reasons to investigate whether discrimination exists and, if
so, how to correct it. The 2014 guidance currently
under threat of repeal by Secretary DeVos was
issued to address precisely these disparities.
Rescinding the guidance would not result in
safer, nurturing schools. It would remove a crucial
tool from educators' toolbox, giving them no direction about how to address classroom situations
and leaving students vulnerable to racial discrimination that has plagued American schools since
the very first school desegregation agreements
that the civil rights offices of both the Department
of Justice and the Department of Education were
created to secure and enforce.
The disciplinary guidance-and educators'
diligence and commitment in using and applying it-has sparked important changes in school
experiences for students across the nation. Repealing the guidance would stall that progress in
many places, leaving more students of color and
those with disabilities vulnerable to being needlessly thrown out of school. It would communicate an ugly message to them that their schools
are not prepared for them and do not believe in
carries on his or her
shoulders the most
of machinery nature
has ever produced."
VANITA GUPTA is the president and CEO of
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
She previously served as the head of the civil rights
division at the U.S. Department of Justice during the
Obama administration. CATHERINE E. LHAMON chairs
the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and litigates on
behalf of children and youth in poverty at the National
Center for Youth Law. She previously served as the
assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department
of Education during the Obama administration.
source, and yet all arrive at different solutions.
Further, students need to learn how to
manage risk and rebound from mistakes.
That's where teaching to the test is particularly lacking. In multiple-choice questions,
there's no value in a wrong answer. Inventiveness, on the other hand, depends on
prolific options and a tolerance for the fact
that many of them will fail. "Sandboxing" is
one way of encouraging such gambits: Students try out multiple ideas before getting
graded, receive feedback, and then pursue
one of their options to completion.
For a part of each school day, classrooms
need to become studios, workshops, and
laboratories. Teachers sometimes express
the concern that those kind of open-ended
activities invite chaos. To the contrary, the
data indicate that creatively engaged students are less distracted and disruptive. A
2013 study from Houston public schools,
for instance, found a correlation between
high arts involvement and decreased disciplinary and truancy rates-even after
the researchers controlled for ethnicity,
socioeconomic status, English-language
fluency, and special education or gifted and
talented designation. And there's a good
reason for that: Our brains gradually tune
out the predictable, making it a struggle to
stay focused in the face of drills and rote
learning. Surprise captures our attention.
Creative activities keep the school day
filled with the unexpected, spurring focus.
Around the country, schools that have
added more creativity into the curricu-
lum-whether though the arts or robotics-have seen their dropout rates and disciplinary problems decline.
Creativity is built into the human brain.
Compared to other animals, we have more
brain cells interposed between sensation and
action-making us less reliant on reflex and
more capable of flexibility. And our large prefrontal cortex enables us to simulate possible
futures. As a result of our evolutionarily recent brain expansion, every child carries on
his or her shoulders the most inventive piece
of machinery nature has ever produced.
Creativity is a lifelong gift that needs to be
rewarded and encouraged from a young age.
We're not only losing future Albert Einsteins, but also Emily Dickinsons, Lin-Manuel Mirandas, and Elon Musks. Over half
a century of research has found the same
creative abilities across all demographic
groups. When cultivating creativity becomes
a matter of privilege, society stalls its own
engines. Cognitive flexibility is paramount
in navigating our fast-changing world, and
companies are clamoring for innovators. We
can't afford to let another crop of students
get marginalized. There's no reason an underserved classroom can't be as creatively
vibrant as a well-funded one. Nurturing
human ingenuity in every neighborhood
will make our society not only fairer, but
also more visionary and resilient. n
ANTHONY BRANDT, a composer, and DAVID
EAGLEMAN, a neuroscientist, are the authors
of The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity
Remakes the World (Catapult, 2017).
EDUCATION WEEK | April 11, 2018 | www.edweek.org | 23