The New x-Factor: The c-Factor

Redefining creativity in a modern context and learning how Beckman High School seeks to emphasize the c-factor to its students

February 25, 2020

Beckman+students+are+all+creative+in+their+own+way.+Whether+it+be+an+artist%2C+a+mathematician%2C+or+a+historian%2C+creativity+is+everywhere.+

Drawing by Sharon Jihn

Beckman students are all creative in their own way. Whether it be an artist, a mathematician, or a historian, creativity is everywhere.

I. What is creativity?

 

creativity

/ˌkrēāˈtivədē/

(noun) the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.

 

A simple Google search on “creativity” will bring up numerous definitions of creativity. Most of these definitions go along with the idea of creating something new and original. That is one part of creativity, but the truth is, there is no set definition. 

 

Creativity is subjective.

 

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II. How do you define creativity?

 

The problem that many people face is the “creator’s block” ‒ not knowing what creativity actually means to them. Because of supposed set definitions for creativity out on the Internet, many people erroneously believe that if they cannot do XYZ, they are not creative. People are thus trapped inside a preconceived box of ideas, making it hard for them to see the world for themselves. By simply following doing what everyone else is doing, society becomes more automated, even though there already are advanced technological developments. The sad irony is that with developments that make humans superior to other species, they are losing something that already made them uniquely human: creativity.

 

In the age of automation and technology, the importance of creativity has increased over the years, becoming one of the most demanded skills for the future. According to the 2018 World Economic Forum Future of Jobs report, creativity ranks third after analytical thinking and innovation and active learning and learning strategies. In the IBM 2010 Global CEO Study, the 1,500 Chief Executive Officers that were surveyed believed that “more than rigor, management discipline, integrity or even vision — successfully navigating an increasing complex world will require creativity.” 

 

Creativity has become a valuable asset for future success. In today’s world, creativity is what drives change, what drives development, what advances society. “The reality is that the emphasis in society today is changing, and the emphasis is on creativity. The more there is automation and the more that everyone is going to college and getting their degree, there is something else that needs to be identified as the x-factor for people as they enter into society,” says Mr. Hochschild, the English 3 Honors teacher. “[That factor] is creativity.”

 

But this important question still remains unanswered: what exactly is creativity? 

 

Here is an answer from Principal Donnie Rafter. “Creativity has a broad definition,” he says. “I would say it is the ability to take ideas from various spaces and influences and combine them into something useful.”

 

Is that the only answer? No.

 

Creativity is subjective, so here are some definitions that the students and teachers have come up with.

 

“Creativity to me is the confidence in failure: being okay with failure but still persisting with your thought process,” says Mr. Veitch, the Advanced Placement Human Geography and United States History teacher. 

 

“Creativity is the use of all available resources in ways that are not expected or that are outside of the norm, like using a piece of sandpaper to peel a potato,” says Mr. Beilin, the Pre-Calculus Honors and Advanced Placement Calculus BC teacher. 

 

“Creativity is doing something you haven’t done before and dreaming big to ultimately inspire others to do the same,” remarks Mr. Chow, the Advanced Placement Biology teacher.

 

“Creativity is the ability to recycle old thoughts and opinions into new, innovative ideas or art,” comments junior Tuong-Vi Tran.

 

“Creativity is the ability to reach into the depths of your mind and pull out your most passionate ideas,” says junior Kyle Hur.

 

The point is, everyone has their own definition of creativity because everyone is creative in their own way. These differences come to show how creativity can be anything and everything, as long as they are willing to stop and think about what creativity means to them. 

 

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III. How can you be creative?

 

Having researched the concept of creativity for the past five years, Dr. Rafter realized that there was a need to push for more creativity at Beckman. The students at Beckman are high-achieving students, and there is no doubt that there is a lot of creativity on campus. However, there is a big obstacle that restricts creativity to an extent: grades.

 

Since Beckman is an academically competitive school, grades are important to many students. The common beliefs are that “good grades = success” and “failure is unacceptable,” so oftentimes, the end result becomes more important than the process of thinking and creating something. Then, to get a better grade, students tack on the word “creative” to justify the uniqueness of their projects, even though it really is no different than everyone else’s. Unfortunately, this so-called formula for success of doing something for the grade only furthers the misconception of both creativity and academic success. 

 

As a step to decrease this mentality and promote more creativity, Dr. Rafter is working with the teachers at Beckman to redefine creativity. This year, he has introduced a new focus on creativity to the teachers, giving them the opportunity to explore creativity. Teachers participate in afterschool activities to learn more about the creative process, such as making succulents out of pumpkins, reflecting in a dark room, and listening to Professor Roland Betancourt from the University of California, Irvine present about how he combined art history with the design and engineering aspect of Disneyland. 

 

“We left it completely open with the idea that teachers would team up and come up with something they wanted to do. Our teachers are trying new things and giving students different options to how they present their material, which allows the students to be creative,” says Dr. Rafter. “What we are already seeing this year are different types of approaches to a normal project from students and our teachers’ willingness to try new things.”

 

The teachers themselves are also actively thinking of methods to engage their students and give a new perspective on creativity. Creativity is not limited to the visual and performing arts ‒ it can be found in all subjects on campus.

 

Mr. Hochschild is placing more emphasis on the thought process, which is a critical part of creativity. “In English, students are taught to just be really good listeners. If you listen, you will be told what to think about, when you write about, you will get a reward for being a good listener,” he comments. “I would rather have a few minutes of a student really thinking about something and write something [they had] thought about but don’t know the answer than find a pre-packaged answer online.” He also incorporated more discussions and allowed the students to lead the conversation. Even if there was silence during the discussion, Mr. Hochschild believes that “there is more value in the silence than in 30 minutes of me telling the students what to think.” 

 

The key to creativity is yourself! (Drawing by Stephanie Xu)

Similarly, Mr. Veitch wants students to be curious and see history through different perspectives. “You give students some structures and with those tools, students can then branch out and come up with their own solutions,” he says. “Tools are just tools. It is the creative mind, the inquisitive mind, the mind that is okay with failing that is going to produce that creativity.” One of the projects that he assigns is the Genius Hour project, a project that other history teachers also give to their students. Students pose a question themselves and use whatever means to present their solution; through these projects, Mr. Veitch is able to see how his students channel their inner creativity to create something that genuinely interests them.

 

Mathematics and science are often considered the least creative subjects. However, that is completely false. Rather than purely memorizing formulas or memorizing the textbook, mathematics and science require the application of knowledge, which is being able to see and utilize the different perspectives of these subjects to explore the unknown. 

 

“Mathematics actually demands creativity,” states Mr. Beilin. “Mathematics isn’t actually about finding solutions, it’s about asking good questions and that in it of itself is a part of creativity. [It], in fact, does the opposite of restricting creativity ‒ having a structure in fact allows greater creativity because it gives you somewhat of a framework in order to build things. If you have no framework whatsoever, it is very difficult to construct, build and create, but then with a framework, you can take it from there.” In his class, Mr. Beilin challenges his students to apply the things they’ve learned to more advanced concepts, such as figuring out a proof which requires critical thinking. 

 

Science is also about the application. “One of the core principles of science is creativity [and] innovation. Science is awesome because we can discover things and prove theories through lab experimentation,” says Mr. Chow. “My goal is to get my students to think like scientists/doctors and take something they know to ultimately help others in our world.” Mr. Chow actively engages with his class in new ways; from playing fun games, having deep discussions about the world to project-based lessons, his goal is to allow students to view science through different lenses. 

 

This year is about setting down the foundation for creativity. By having the teachers experiment, fail and learn from their own exploration of creativity, Dr. Rafter hopes that the creative effect will trickle down to the students, eventually enabling students to hone their own individual creativity. He also hopes that the discussion of creativity can lead to solutions that tackle other problems, such as how the school can encourage failure and celebrate the thought process without the concerns over a grade.

 

“Everyone has creativity. Each person has the ability to improve on their own creative processes, but they just need to be made aware of it,” remarks Dr. Rafter. “If people realize what creativity is and where it is and saw it in their day to day lives, that would help us work and be more creative.”

 

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No one can tell you how to be creative because everyone has their own creativity, so it is up to you to identify what makes you creative. If there could be a “first step” towards being creative, it could be to think for yourself and learn from yourself. But then again, there is no definite answer.

 

Perhaps, rather than asking others, ask yourself.

 

What is creativity to me?

 

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