Education essential to creativity

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Re: “Think outside the box for education”
Jan. 15, 2009

To the editor:
Having to learn over 200 brain parts for an upcoming neuroanatomy exam, I can sympathize with Mr. Misheal’s frustration at what seems to be a “boring and irrelevant education.” However, I disagree with his core notion that having to undergo such learning impedes creativity; indeed, higher education encourages a systematic development of creative ideas where good ones are separated from the bad.

Any imaginative child or layperson can propose “new ideas” to explain a phenomenon or solve a world issue. How can you discern what is feasible? How do you know if something similar has been thought of and implemented before? There ought to be an organized way of discovering and applying knowledge.

As undergraduates, we are being equipped with knowledge and mental tools " such as research methods and statistics " to become unique thinkers who can test their ideas. Beyond the undergraduate level, students review existing ideas, generate their own and then subject their theories to rigorous scientific scrutiny and peer reviews, ultimately publishing them for learning and application. Creative ideas must be tested for their feasibility " ironically, Mr. Misheal’s proposed class structure can be empirically tested for its effectiveness, a process that would apply the statistics he was learning. This process substantiates the need to learn from the past in order to be feasibly creative. Furthermore, attributes that are necessary for success in solving difficult problems " such as logical thinking and the ability to handle complexity " are developed through acquiring challenging subjects like mathematics. There is no evidence that having to learn such subjects extinguishes creativity; the two are not mutually exclusive. I doubt that we would have implemented a better foreign policy for the Israel/Palestine conflict or came up with hybrid cars years earlier had we used an alternative method of education. And I don’t know of many successful, creative and highly-educated people who blamed tedious learning for impeding their creativity.

Higher education trains students to develop feasibly creative ideas systematically, testing them with tools like statistics which some may find tedious to acquire. But only with those requisite tools can you even begin to solve world hunger " let alone your own.
" Kevin Leung
Neuropsychology III

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