A Creative Education for a Creative Economy

via Mark McGuinness and Lateral Action

In reality the creative economy is neither a panacea nor a mass delusion but somewhere in between. The opportunities are balanced by dangers. Chris Bilton concludes that the creative economy is important ‘not because it represents a bright new future, but because it represents a future of uncertainty and risk’.

This is a from a fascinating article by Mark McGuinness about the rise of the creative economy.  Although the article focuses on the economic ramifications of the new creative economy I think the social and educational impact of this creative shift will leave even more of a lasting effect.

This new economy is due in large part due to two main factors:

1. The increased availability of creative tools via technology

2. The internet as a means of distribution.

For the current adult generation these 2 factors have created a world of incredible potential that we could only dream of as kids.  We are only limited now by our imagination.   We really don’t know what to do with this new freedom.  Our toes are barely in the shallow end of the pool.

And as in all cases of acquiring freedom, there is an element of fear. Hence the comment by Bilton about “a future of uncertainty and risk.”  Sure there are some great creators right now making innovative and interesting content.  But what about the culture as a whole, can we handle it?  Will we use it for good? For gain? For profit?

The answer probably is yes to all of those questions.  But in truth they are questions that this generation cannot answer.  The answer will be written by our kids and grand kids and great grand kids.

But their familiarity with these tools, familiarity with creating, familiarity with sharing will certainly lead to some amazing things.  What is important is that we teach them about craft and creativity so that they appreciate a process which has been in existence since the first cave paintings thousands of years ago.

But right now our primary focus in education is about preparing kids for standardized tests.  As a general concept standards make sense.  They enable you to create and establish consistency in a single environment.  But standards come from an industrial based economy where you are trying make as many widgets as possible with a consistent level of quality.

People are not widgets.  People are dynamic entities.  They react differently to the same external forces so you cannot assume that the same external forces will produce the same results.  When you apply that concept across a country with varying social, cultural, and economic environments you can see how the idea of standardized tests do not scale well beyond a very small subset of people.

In the new creative economy, standard education just won’t do.  We cannot succeed by making everyone the same.  We can only succeed by nurturing people to be exactly who they are,  allowing them to find what they have to offer, and encouraging them to share it with society.

It’s a big shift from our current social structure where success is defined by a narrow scope or standard.  But the same 2 factors that will drive the new economy, tools and access, will drive this change.  My children will grow up in a world where they will be exposed to more ideas, people, and cultures than I ever was.  They will be able and encouraged to share their ideas freely via tools like blogs, twitter, facebook, and whatever else comes along.  Those tools will in turn allow them to connect to like minded people around the world across geographical and cultural lines.  And in the end they will realize the only standard they have to live by is what makes them happy.