Scaling Creative Solutions in Educational Leadership for Today’s Global Economy

By Roslyn Tam, special to Overdrive

Creativity, and creative problem solving, is often what separates success and failure, and making sure students in the United States are building this trait is of paramount importance for many parents and administrators. Many are getting a masters in education administration in order to change school curricula and improve the creativity of students in school, starting in the early grades but continuing well through high school and even college.

While schools budgets are being gutted, it is paramount that the educators themselves become very creative in the ways in which they teach their students and foster growth.According to the 2004 book Flight of the Creative Class, the 39 million employees working in the country’s creative sector — approximately 30 percent of the country’s working population — generated $2 trillion in wealth during 2003 alone. This is something that has caught the eye of school administrators who are looking to develop programs in order to help their students be more marketable. This number is only rising.

Creative sector jobs include business operations, computer-related work and positions related to arts and the humanities.By contrast, the service sector employed more people in 2003, 56 million, but only generated US$1.3 trillion in wealth. This sector includes food service, maintenance and personal care occupations. The manufacturing sector employed 33 million employees, and tallied up a net US$1 trillion.

Preparing students for creative jobs almost always starts in the classroom. School-sponsored competitions in creative events is one way that networks of schools can encourage large-scale support of creative thinking. One such competitive event is known as Destination ImagiNation.

In Destination ImagiNation, teams of children from a certain age range or grade are pitted against each other in a number of problem-solving events that test both creativity and teamwork. Opponents are sometimes from the same school, but more often than not are from very diverse locations. Destination ImagiNation events span 30 countries, and connects students in real time via the internet. The programming touches more than 125,000 school children around the world each academic year.

Financial support for creative subjects in the humanities has traditionally been difficult to come by at schools. In today’s climate of budget cuts, justifying creative studies can be all the more difficult. As the benefits of creative learning become better understood, however, many schools are committing to more “outside the box” programs–even when funding is somewhat uncertain. University adoption of creative leadership modules is one major source of encouragement for secondary schools, and can help justify the need for this sort of programming.

Increasingly, many renowned institutions of higher education are making the commitment to restore arts education throughout their course offerings. Harvard University is at the forefront of this motion. In 2008, Harvard published a task force report entitled “Breaking Boundaries: Arts, Creativity and the Harvard Curriculum” that argued for the implementation of arts, performance and creativity throughout the university’s academic disciplines. The university has made good on this argument in a number of ways. Many were on display at an April 2012 Harvard arts festival, titled “Arts First.”

Arts First showcased many courses that had begun implementing more creative projects. Students of organismic and evolutionary biology had a festival of short films they had created based on class topics, for instance. A calligraphy display by students of arts and religion in Muslim cultures was also a highlight.

We live in an increasingly creative and global economy. The automation of many service sector and working class jobs means that the human element is most valuable in positions that still require original thought. Schools that teach students how to develop their senses of creativity will be the best at preparing their graduates to succeed in our ever-changing international society.

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