When You Ask the Right Question the Wrong Way


(Dave Thompson/PA Images via Getty Images)

Back in August, the Pew people published a study on how the world feels about the importance of teaching creativity and innovation in schools. The primary question of the survey was this: “Is it more important that the schools in our country teach students… basic skills and discipline or to be creative and think independently?”

In large part this survey confirms assumptions that would have been made without the data; people in advanced economies are more interested in creativity than those in developing nations. It seems likely that Maslow would have predicted that response back in the 40’s.

The survey went on to discover that in the more advanced countries those on the political right are more supportive of basic skills and discipline while the left is likely to embrace creative and independent thinking.FT_17.08.21_educationGlobal_ideo

I have been stewing about this stupid survey since it came out.

The Pew people have unwittingly promoted and substantiated the idea that these skills are independent of one another, that basic skills are not taught to creative types or that discipline and structure are not part of independent thinking.

Simply grouping those skill sets together implies some kind symbiotic relationship between basic skills and discipline as well as a natural segregation between them and independent thinking and creativity.  How would the results change if instead of grouping them as they did Pew had asked people, “Is it more important that the schools in our country teach students… basic skills and independent thinking or to be creative and disciplined?”

If education is going to have any role in bridging the political divide, (and I fervently believe we should take an active role), we cannot make presumption regarding what values complement each other.

If the last century of research exploring the makeup of human innovation and creativity has taught us anything, it is that they are the result of disciplined efforts and the divergent application of basic skills.



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