Monday, August 15, 2011

Imagining a world devoid of imagination :: Writing & Tutoring

A consortium of local schools ranging from the college where I work to the University of Washington-Tacoma is putting together a citywide tutoring effort focused on writing and creativity for ages 6-18. I have been asked to participate and today is the first in what will probably be a long series of meetings toward launching this effort.

This is all being done with the eventual goal of creating a chapter of the 826 Project in the south Puget Sound region.  If you remember this post from March of last year, you may recall my enthusiasm for the project and I'm looking forward to the chance to particitpate.  To 'pay forward' the opportunities afforded me by a literate upbringing.

In light of this troubling report filed by researchers at William & Mary demonstrating that children are growing less creative, I would say that this is all the more important. It seems that as schools cut art, creative writing, and music programs to make room for more lessons in taking standardized tests, the imaginations of the students are beginning to lag behind.

Go figure.

Albert Einstein warned us in the 1930's not to neglect the imagination: "I believe in intuition and inspiration. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution."  

Can you imagine a world where children have forgotten how to play? How to make up games and stories? How to imagine into the blanks between the lines of the books they read and the movies they watch?

This isn't all about the arts either. Einstein went on to add "[Imagination] is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research." And he should know. The theory of special relativity was dreamt up in a thought experiment where the man imagined what it would be like to travel alongside a beam of light. 

E=mc² was the result and the world changed thereby.

So this isn't just about Scott bemoaning the demise of schoolyard games and mud pies.

This weekend, I was speaking to an early childhood educator and she agreed with the researcher's findings. When she shows a child a drawing and asks them about it, they have trouble even understanding the concept that you can tell a story about it, that a picture is worth ten words, much less a thousand.

That is sad to me beyond belief.

The 826 Project and many independent projects like it (such as the one we are launching in Tacoma) try to step in with after school programs and enrichment activities to stoke the fires of the imagination, to give that extra poke and push that growing brains require in order to make the leap from idea to idea.

I'm not an expert on education, I'm a writer.  I don't know that this is the solution.  But it's the only solution that I can personally take a hand in, and I shall make of it all that I can.

I humbly submit that you should do likewise.

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Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).