The practical uses of teaching creativity

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April 9, 2013

12:52 AM

There are two types of people on this campus: those who love GER6 and those who hate GER6. You either love waking up for Introduction to Theatre, or you hate having paint on your hands all day.

Certain people can’t get enough — some even major in a creativity-oriented area of study. These lovers of art and expression have no problem with what’s becoming a nation-wide trend: the incorporation of creativity into curriculum.

Then there are the other half — students who would rather drink from the Crim Dell than take guitar lessons or muster up the gumption to register for Public Speaking. This half doesn’t agree with the creative elements of the college requirements. Instead, they’re focused on job placement rates and beginning salaries.

Of course, one isn’t better than the other. Not all artists starve; not all finance majors make millions. A tendency toward expression isn’t more impressive or more eloquent than a love of biochemistry. Business majors who use outrageously long acronyms aren’t inherently guaranteed more money or a better, more successful career. There is debate, however, over the movement toward mass acceptance of creativity-based elements in the college curriculum.

If anything, liberal arts colleges are simply that — schools of liberal arts. By definition, liberal arts institutions are designed to saturate students with a variety of knowledge, from practical applications to general, sometimes unfounded, theories. Somewhere in between, there is a place for creative curriculum.

From Stanford to Kentucky to New York University, liberal arts colleges are rapidly implementing requirements forcing students to take a course based in creativity. Gasp — half of you just stuck a straw in the Crim Dell while the other half started ruminating about different ways to express your emotions on the subject.

Keep in mind you are attending a liberal arts college, one that promised you a vast variety of styles of knowledge, no less. If you disagree with having to take a creativity-based class on the grounds of practicality in the real world, go to a trade school.

Also realize creativity separates you from millions of other applicants who, on paper, look just like you. They also have good grades, a pertinent major and a belief that they’re the very best in the applicant pool. What will make you stand out in an increasingly globalized world and more competitive playing field?

Any number of answers could work here, but creative strength allows you to approach problems in unique ways — ways that no one else in the applicant pool would think of.

Maybe you disagree with the implementation of creative classes on the grounds that they lack substantive, lasting material. On some level, this makes sense. A college student’s dance recital or sculpture probably won’t make headlines the way an award-winning research paper will.

At the same time, however, creativity enabled the award-winning researcher to think beyond the scope of his or her research. Creativity helped push the researcher past established veins of inquiry and traditional methods.

In short, creativity gives students another tool, one absent without a willingness to experiment in methods considered non-practical. Should colleges require students to take classes in creativity? Yes, if only to give students another set of skills.

The essence of liberal arts universities lies in their ability to expose students to a broad range of knowledge, methodologies, theories and other scholastic ideals under one roof for four years. Creating classes focused on another type of knowledge — creativity — is a step toward broadening the already vast limits of liberal arts.

Still oppose the very idea of trying something a little different? There are schools that focus just on the practical, the realistic, the non-creative side of higher education. They are no worse off and no better off than schools that focus on creativity.

Find what suits you and take that route. Meanwhile, GER6 signups are still open.

Email Chris Weber at [email protected]

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Chris Weber

Senior staff writer Chris Weber '15 is an English major from Spotsylvania, Va. He was previously Sports Editor.

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