Cultivating Imagination in Schools

What is the purpose of schools? Are they merely responsible for teaching facts and figures? What is the fate, then, of imagination and creativity in the minds of our kids? As Albert Einstein once said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” I happen to share Einstein’s view on education; knowledge without context is just useless information.

As schools across the country move towards adopting the Common Core standards, an emphasis has been put on reading more non-fiction. While I think this is a great effort, as I learned plenty in school from history books, newspapers and biographies, I feel that without reading fiction where ideas and concepts are applied, I would have a much worse understanding of those concepts.

For example, learning about totalitarian rule during World War II by reading a history textbook might well give a student a good definition of the concept. However, when that same student reads a novel such as 1984, in which the effects of a fascist regime are shown in great detail on the main character Winston Smith, that student begins to understand the real-world impact and human consequences behind such an idea.

The same lesson holds true for most concepts and ideas; you can teach the facts, but without creative thought or imagination, students will find it hard to fully understand them. I believe that schools should put equal emphasis on cultivating logical thought and creativity in students (Tim Clifford at The New York Times agrees). What do you think?