What Is The Role Of Creativity In Society

Jay Maloney · June 5, 2018

Looking at Society

In a previous post on financial matters, I talked about several personal benefits that have come as a result of a full time focus on music and creativity. It is important to look at this with a wider lens and examine the role of art, music, culture and creativity in our society.

Our economy is evolving (or devolving) in a way that constantly puts less and less value on creative endeavors such as art and music. This is in spite of what I believe to be a strong case for these activities as not only a key element to a healthy society, but an important driver of our economy.

Creativity is a renewable resource that businesses can and do tap into. By this I don’t mean that businesses are looking for painters and composers, but that the habit of creative problem-solving translates to any activity we find ourselves engaged in. If the talent and skills are not there, if they’re not nurtured, then businesses will be forced to look elsewhere - David Byrne, How Music Works

What does creativity mean for the health of society? It means that people are spending their time on contributing something positive rather than consuming the onslaught of garbage media that has seemingly taken over the collective consciousness.

Over the last century the media has learned well what content will be most profitable. Scandals, gossip, catastrophes, sensationalism, and tragedies are what is considered newsworthy.

Let’s go on a diet! The media is offering junk food and empty calories. Creative outlets, such as music, art, dance, and writing  offer a healthy alternative. This is the nutrient rich fruits and vegetables that lead to a healthy body and healthy society.

There’s a lot of problems that can be bettered with better education and culture. And I think that the arts can be instrumental in that world. Someone wants to play guitar and sing a beautiful song is not going to take a gun and kill someone. - Serj Tankian, Musician

Looking at Education

What skills and competencies does our society deem of highest value? And therefore, what skills is our education system focused on developing?

It is easy to question our education system and how it determines intelligence. It is easy to question the skills and abilities that our society considers valable.

In his 2006 TED Talk, Do Schools Kill Creativity, Sir Ken Robinson contends that our public education system is fundamentally flawed in that it defines academic intelligence as those abilities which will feed the industrialized economy. Creative intelligence, on the other hand is stigmatized. It tells kids to steer away from art and music on the grounds that it will not lead to a financially stable career.

Robinson aligns with the work of Howard Gardner and his 1983 book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, which defines intelligence far more broadly in 8 categories.

I find it very intriguing that Gardner devotes one of his 8 categories specifically to musical intelligence.

As an aesthetic form, music lends itself especially well to playful exploration with other modes of intelligence and symbolization, particularly in the hands (or ears) of highly creative individuals. Yet, according to my own analysis, the core operations of music do not bear intimate connections to the core operations in other areas; and therefore, music deserves to be considered as an autonomous intellectual realm.” - Howard Gardner, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

A similar theory of intelligence is later provided by Robert Sternberg in his 1988 book, The Triarchic Mind: A New Theory of Intelligence. Here, intelligence is broken down into 3 components, analytical, creative, and practical.

The creative component, defined by Sternberg,  emphasizes the importance of divergent thinking and ability to deal with new situations. Is this practiced and valued in our education system?

To summarize, there are and have been a choir of voices screaming out in favor of creativity in society and education. The point of this post is to bring together some of the more articulate voices on this topic and to encourage the discussion. We need to continue this dialogue.

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