We see the world through the lens of all our experiences; that is a fundamental part of the human condition.
– Madeleine M. Kunin
I love this quote, and it relates to the last reading of creativity class for the semester. Here’s the thing about being human: We can’t be objective. We have to make sense of the world somehow, and as the author suggests, paradigms are how we do it.
We each form perspectives of the world that are shaped by our individual experiences. Everything we see, from a coffee cup to the Eiffel Tower, is interpreted by our “prior beliefs and expectations” and we have no way of avoiding it. So, in order to be more creative, how do we overcome the limitations of our paradigm? By finding new paradigms. Yes, paradigms reveal the world, but they also conceal the world, says the author, and it’s important to go beyond our comfortable spaces of thinking to form new ones. In other words, paradigms aren’t all bad, if we don’t just stick to the same one.
What does this mean for our definition of “genius”? And what does this mean for everyone’s ability to make a scientific or creative breakthrough, regardless of mental capacity?
Well, the paradigm theory supports an idea that we don’t normally associate with science: imagination.
And, as the reading says, “imagination has long had a bad rap.” Oh, yes. I remember reading Hard Times by Charles Dickens, which describes a classroom environment in which the children are encouraged simply to memorize facts. Facts, facts, facts. Mr. Gradgrind, who represents the educational system, wants to repress creativity and emphasize the learning that can be measurable. Hmm. Sounds familiar…
The imagination was not valued in Hard Times. Unfortunately, I believe Mr. Dickens accurately portrayed not only the Victorian education system, but my own contemporary system in which I am currently trapped as I memorize information for my final exams. The reading confirms this: The imagination has historically been associated with the illogical, the irrational, the dangerous. Creativity cannot be readily measured, and so it goes largely ignored by education systems. Indeed, the first budget to get cut is almost always the arts budget. Why, I ask, is our system this way, when celebrated thinkers like Einstein and Dewey say that imagination is the key to their discoveries (as discussed in the reading)? And the reading offers an answer: People fear it, because it’s mysterious.
As I finish up my last blog post for creativity class, I can reflect with this final thought from the reading: We must imagine, before we can know. It is my hope that in the future, we will be able to value creativity and imagination in classrooms so that the future Einsteins of the world (along with the little C’s of the world like me) can better develop both. Perhaps more educators and policymakers will one day understand that creativity is vital to success in any field, from engineering to literature to biology to filmmaking to computer science and so on. In the meantime, I will continue doing what I can to encourage imagination and creativity in both myself and others, using what I’ve learned in this wonderful class.