One thing that distinguishes SRCS from many other schools across America is the first day of upper school English class. Instead of assigning free-writing journals, teachers establish the following ground rules: "There is good writing. And there is bad writing. It's laughable to think that anyone in this classroom has a style yet. My comments on your papers and my classroom instruction will not squelch your creativity, but in fact, release it in the years to come--once you know what you're doing. " To quote a movie from yesteryear-- "Patience, grasshopper." (Karate Kid)
Without a foundation of understanding and skill, there can be no creativity. Without core knowledge, without rules, without the dreaded drill and practice, there is no creativity.
Creativity is freedom in thinking. And we can't think outside the box--if there isn't a box to begin with.
That's why at SRCS we read, read, and read some more. It's why students learn grammar and memorize scripture and conjugate verbs in Spanish. It's why on a bible or science test, Mr. Eckart says, "Explain this concept with precision in five sentences or less--" no rambling in the hopes of stumbling on the correct answer. It's why we learn math facts and memorize multiplication tables and practice the scale of C major until the squeaking turns into melody.
Creativity takes practice, knowledge, and skill. In one of his Teach Like a Champion blog posts (http://teachlikeachampion.com/blog/thoughts-creativity-arts-amateur/), instructional educator Doug Lemov succinctly names the two things necessary for creativity: knowledge and constraints. He observed his own daughter's experience in art classes throughout the years, calling special attention to the teacher who "would let her draw for a while and then say: 'The whites are not white enough and the darks are not dark enough. It should look like this.' Or: 'The proportion is wrong. Erase and try again.' This was often hard for my daughter because she had spent hours on the drawing and it was pretty good. But for this teacher it was never about the drawing, drawing. It was about 1) the ability to develop tools to draw accurately and 2) the fearlessness of being willing to erase. Interestingly she is perhaps the only art teacher my daughter has had who has thought there was such a thing as right and wrong in art. And that was the game changer " (Lemov).
In an increasingly relativistic America where consumers worship self-expression, "right and wrong"-- even when referring to something like technique--have lost fashion. Yet ironically, Lemov refers to the teacher who challenged his daughter as the "game changer." He's onto something big.
Why does SRCS believe that creativity is borne out of constraints and parameters? Because true freedom is not freedom from--but freedom to. It's biblical. God's law provides parameters for creation. And though we will kick and scream and buck and fight for self-expression and freedom from these seeming constraints, He patiently shows us that it is within these very boundaries where we will find flourishing. And freedom.
The next great novel starts with correct commas and apostrophes. The cure for the world's most devastating diseases will start with meticulously detailed lab reports. And the beauty of revolutionary designs in architecture will begin with third-grade math facts. The creative shapers of our tomorrow begin with the young learners of today. Now pull out the red pen and make that rough draft bleed!