by Tyler Woodside
That wasn’t the first time I tried to write a website. In high school, I created a site for the speech team to use as a central information hub, where travels plans, practice times, and other announcements could be posted and seen by team members. At that time, I wasn’t so intent on creating the site from the ground up; instead, I found a free web host that provided default themes, and simply did a little bit of customization to one of those and built a few subpages where people could check for the information they wanted. The site flopped; the theme never looked good, things broke, and it quickly became apparent that the team never used the site. I stopped updating not long after it went up, and two years later the only people that remembered the site were the coach and I.
What was the difference between those two experiences? Well, the obvious one was my own excitement. I was motivated enough to spend four months working on my own blog, despite incredible setbacks and difficulties when creating it, but the speech team’s site was never important enough for me even to keep functioning. The reason one was more important than the other can be summed up in one word: creativity. My blog was full of my own ideas, and I was able to conceptualize and design it any way I wanted, without limits from the web host or the needs of the site. The speech team’s site was always restricted to the themes I had available and the information that the team needed to have on the site, rather than what I wanted to make and put up.
In the end, I needed both the technical knowledge I gained from school and the creative freedom of my own project in order to learn the very valuable skills I gained from working on my blog. Now imagine if I had been in a classroom, where a teacher could have directed my learning, ensuring there wasn’t gaps in my knowledge, I was learning everything in an order that made sense, and I was complying to standards of good code. If a student could have the motivation of a creative project alongside the technical knowledge gained from having a quality teacher, that student would learn much more and be more excited about what he or she was learning. That’s why educators need to incorporate both technical and creative learning styles in all subjects, both scientific and arts related. After all, even if you don’t incorporate it into other subjects, teaching kids creativity through the arts can have huge benefits beyond just their ability to do art, and when you do practice incorporation, that creativity becomes just as crucial a part of his or her success as an individual’s talent or intelligence.
One of the easiest ways to foster creativity in someone is to involve him or her in the arts. In many ways, the ultimate goal of the arts is to create new, beautiful, and unique things, so bringing the arts into someone’s life goes a long way in making that person more creative. Because of that, being involved in art can make you both more creative and more intelligent. At an early age, according to Glenn Schellenberg, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto Mississauga and a prominent researcher of the effects of music on child development, introducing a child to music can have huge impacts on the growth rates of their IQ as well. In 2004, Schellenberg conducted an experiment in which he gave four groups of first graders IQ tests, then a year later gave them a subsequent IQ test to compare which group had the highest and lowest levels of growth. Three of the groups were given an extra-curricular activity to be engaged in: one group was assigned vocal music training, one group keyboard training, and the third drama training. The fourth group was assigned to be involved in no extra-curricular activities. The drama group and the uninvolved groups served as control subjects, as a way of comparing both normal IQ growth, and IQ growth purely as a result of extra-curricular activities rather than music. Schellenberg found that, while each group had an increase in IQ growth he attributed to school, the two musical groups had a greater increase across all categories of intellectual ability measured by the IQ test used. Similarly, the drama group saw a higher increase over those who were entirely uninvolved (Schellenberg 319). What this means is that the students who study music early are quantitatively more intelligent than those who don’t, which gives those students an powerful advantage in school and in life. In addition, according to Michael Gazzaniga, director of the Arts and Cognition Consortium, “interest in arts…leads to higher levels of motivation and better attention span” (qtd. in Baker par. 6-7). These two benefits affect more than just your ability to think, they affect your dedication to projects, whether artistic or scientific. Obviously, then, art has powerful benefits even if you don’t accept that it makes you more creative, and if you do, then you get that benefit as well.
After all, IQ is not the sole determinant factor in success. Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers: The Story of Success, explains that intelligence only determines a portion of one’s achievment. He states that past a point, around 120 on an IQ test, other factors determining success take over as more important (79). Those other factors are things like motivation and creativity, two things that have been shown to be fostered by the arts. It makes sense too: who seems better suited to be a leader, someone who has 200 IQ points, but no motivation or creativity, or someone with 90 IQ points who is determined to finish things and creative enough to find alternate solutions? Creativity matters in the real world, and it has real power to make better inventions in both scientific and artistic settings.
In the end, it’s not enough just to teach creativity through art and critical thinking through science. Each discipline does well teaching the though processes for that discipline, but the creativity that led to surrealism won’t help physics find the theory of everything, and the critical thinking that proves the reflexive property in math won’t help an artist understand why something is beautiful. If you can’t use artistic creativity in science, then you have to teach scientific creativity. Let’s do that, then. Let’s stop forcing students to choose between creative, technical, and critical career paths, and instead bring them together to push us forward into a new and greater era of humanity.
Baker, Beth. “Arts Education.” CQ Researcher. 2012. Web. 29 Sep. 2013.
Gladwell, Malcom. Outliers: The Story Of Success. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008. 69-90. Print.
Schellenberg, Glenn. “Music and Cognitive Abilities.”University of Toronto Mississauga. University of Toronto, n.d. Web. 25 Sep. 2013.