The Initial Proposal

This was our very first proposal for our independent study. Since it was first written in August, some changes have been made in the focus of the project.

Education/Genius Independent Study Proposal

“So I want to talk about education and I want to talk about creativity. My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” – Sir Ken Robinson

           Early in our 7th grade year, we became enraptured with the idea that “education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” We were introduced to this W.B.Yeats quote by a teacher, Mr. Heidt, in a class known as Creative Expressions that we were required to take in 7th grade. This class completely altered our world. This idea of education being the lighting of a fire rather than the filling of a pail seemed so elemental, so true, that it appeared almost illogical to view education in any other way. Yet, the more we reflected on this idea, the more it seemed to contrast with much of the way the education system is organized. In this course we also learned about the design process and design thinking, as well as the qualities which make a genius, which is not solely intelligence like most commonly thought, but 12 qualities, including creativity, vitality, playfulness, curiosity, imagination, wonder, wisdom, inventiveness, sensitivity, humor, flexibility, and joy. From this point on, the information we learned in this class would be a tremendous influence on us and guide us through everything we would do inside and outside of school.

Since Creative Expressions sparked a flame in us in middle school, and due to the life changing and disappointing experiences we have experienced in our own time in school, a passion has burned in us to want to learn more about why education is the way it is and how it can be made better. For this reason, we would like to propose to do an Independent Study focusing on how education could be redesigned to value and nurture the twelve qualities of genius found in all people we learned about in Creative Expressions and outlined in author and educator Thomas Armstrong’s book Awakening Genius in the Classroom.

In addition to humans being curious by nature, education is often sought by humans in order to increase their quality of life. Humans often seek education for three reasons; to improve their lives economically, to be able to contribute to society civically, and to satisfy their own curiosity and passions. Throughout almost all of history and continuing into today’s system of education, valuing education for its ability to improve people’s economic and civic prospects and abilities is the dominating influence for how educational systems are structured, while pursuing education to satisfy curiosity or passions is often viewed as secondary to the necessity of education. This lack of value of curiosity and passion in education throughout history has been detrimental to students by crushing their natural curiosity and interest in learning by devaluing their passions, abilities, creativity, and complexity. In Ken Robinson’s TED Talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” he says “So I have a big interest in education, and I think we all do. We have a huge vested interest in it, partly because it’s education that’s meant to take us into this future that we can’t grasp. If you think of it, children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065. Nobody has a clue, despite all the expertise that’s been on parade for the past four days, [referring to the TED conference] what the world will look like in five years’ time. And yet we’re meant to be educating them for it. So the unpredictability, I think, is extraordinary.” Robinson is correct when he says that we all have an interest in education because in some form, we have all been impacted by education and understand that it is what keeps us moving into the future. He is also correct when he says that the future is difficult to predict. As a result, one can conclude that education is crucial to life and the future, but the way that it is currently structured might not best meet the needs of the 21st century learner, who is living under very different circumstances than the 20th century learner, who in the earliest parts of the 20th century received an education of only what was deemed valuable, (mostly information that provided clear civic and economic benefits) by the growing industrial society. A problem arises from this situation of how education might break away from it’s history of devaluing curiosity, creativity, and passion and change to value these qualities and as a result, better prepare students for the future by nurturing their innate qualities of genius that all humans possess. To try to fix and improve this problem, teachers educated in a “20th century and previous” environment in which curiosity, creativity, and passion are devalued will have to begin to figure out how they can change education to better prepare students in the 21st century.

This problem and how it might be fixed might be framed in the question “How might we design an educational system that best meets the learner’s needs in the 21st century?” For this course, we would like to explore how this problem can be fixed and improved upon by approaching this as a design challenge; to read and research about why education is the way it is, and then once we understand it’s history and why it is in the current state that it is in, ideate how we could improve the education system to meet our design goal of creating an education system that meets the needs of a 21st century learner.

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