Saturday, May 4, 2013

Sci Am on student science and creativity

As a child, I loved Farley Mowat's books on his childhood ( Owls in the Family, The Dog who Wouldn't Be) and loved the way he lived the way I wanted to.*  I have grown up being interested in science but not actually doing any science.

Kiera Wilmot attempted to learn by doing and was arrested for it.  Yes, the experiment she did was dangerous, but a felony?  I don't think so.  In other locations, I have written about 'Libel Chill'.  Here is Science Chill.

The exact details are unknown but the incident led to a minor explosion, hurt nobody and damaged no property. This relatively harmless bit of curiosity led to Ms. Wilmot being handcuffed, arrested and expelled from the school. Irrational State Overreach: 1, The Much Touted American Edge in Science: 0. Whatever else the school was trying to achieve, it definitely succeeded in squelching independent scientific curiosity in its students.

Now let’s get one thing straight. The student was playing with a potentially hazardous mix and she was not using proper protective equipment. She definitely deserved to be reprimanded and perhaps even punished in some way, maybe by putting her on probation. But when you arrest and expel students for slaking their scientific curiosity, whatever the other consequences of that action, be advised that you are almost certainly sacrificing a valuable scientist at the altar of arbitrarily wielded state and school power....And to Kiera Wilmot I say, please don’t give up on yourself because the system failed. Remember the deeds of George Washington Carver and Percy Julian who came before you; both of them rose to prominence in spite of the system and not because of it.

I have all discussed the finding that schools do not encourage creativity but, at best, can only work to reduce discouragement.

Completely as a tangent, the surviving Boston Marathon Bomber was charged with using a WMD.  I hope Wilmot is spared that fate.

Back to schools attempting to encourage creativity:

In a recent survey conducted by Mary-Catherine McClain and Steven I. Pfeiffer, while 90% of the state definitions of giftedness in the United States include “intelligence” as an area or category of giftedness, only 54% include creativity. Even worse, only 9 states actually require displays of creativity for inclusion into gifted education programs.
Part of the problem may be our identification methods for creativity. One prominent method is the use of portfolios. Typically, students who demonstrate exceptional talent in music and art receive the opportunity to produce a portfolio. Unfortunately, this leaves out many highly creative students whose area of passion (e.g., social entrepreneurship, video game design, contemporary dance, sushi chef, etc.) isn’t so easily identified.

This article links to another which offers a description of especially creative students:
Creatively gifted students may be spontaneous, expressive, intuitive, and perceptive, with evidence of intellectual sophistication and childlike playfulness. They are very likely to be curious, open to new experiences, and innovative in many areas of their lives. They may express originality in thoughts, and are probably unafraid of what others might think of their ideas. Most likely, these students have a wide range of interests and abilities, and may be comfortable with ambiguity and disorder. Likely to be unconventional, creatively gifted students are imaginative, and may challenge the status quo. By late adolescence, truly creative individuals usually have significant creative accomplishments that have earned them recognition by experts in their domain.

* I am aware that he has faced many questions about what exactly was fact and what was fiction.  As a child I believed it all and was not harmed by such beliefs.

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