I’m teaching a class on creativity at Signature Theater in Washington, DC and I’ve been thinking therefore a lot about imagination, creativity and intuition.
At this very time of difficulty and division, we struggle not only individually but as a country and as a culture, with economic reverses and warring factions. Our fearful solutions are to cut out those very aspects of education that encourage wisdom and intuition.
Our schools, facing financial challenges, cut the arts, music, theater, and even phys ed, so that restless children are forced to sit for hours at their desks instead of working off their energy (and pumping oxygen to the brain!) by running, games, by playing with learning.
We pull back into the caves of our fear: “Learn reading and writing and arithmetic – that’s all you need,” we tell our children, ignoring the fact that one can learn to read and write by reading history or science books. We ignore also the many studies that show that children exposed to CREATIVE ENDEAVORS–playing a musical instrument or performing in plays or working with paint–do better on their exams and SATs than other children. One study through UCLA concluded that students involved in the arts tend to score nearly 100 points higher on the SATs than those who do not. Another study by the University of Illinois found that children who partook of music education even just in elementary school still scored 100 points higher on average than their unmusically involved peers.
Of all the arts, it is theater that teaches most, and those children who perform in plays do best on their exams. Why? Because you’re not “pretending” when you act in a play or direct it or even when you read it. You must become the character, you’re portraying. It requires honesty, openness. You cannot lie. It develops empathy, self-awareness, imagination, and with imagination comes intuition, and with intuition comes creativity.
Some people claim the arts (and creativity) have no value, but the arts develop inner wisdom. Do you remember the lines in the play, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” by Muriel Spark, when she cries that education comes from a Latin word, e-ducare or “To Lead Out.” We are supposed to be leading our children OUT of the box of strangled thinking. Our children are being short changed by cutting back the arts. What are we, troglodytes? What is the purpose of education? Not only to learn the skill of reading (though of course that’s important) but to give our children tools by which to live! What better tools than intuition, wisdom, the ability to think for yourself? We call it creativity.
A bientôt, In peace and love, Sophy