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June 13, 2011 - Image 4

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Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-06-13

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Monday, June 13, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
CC.hie fiichigan, BatIly

Creative habits

Editedand managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
tothedaily@umich.edu

BETHANY BIRON
EDITOR IN CHIEF

MARK BURNS
MANAGING EDITOR

TEDDY PAPES
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board.
Allother signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Inadequate reform
Education must reward, not punish teachers.
n Thursday, the state House approved legislation that
makes it more difficult for teachers to reach and main-
tain tenured status while making it easier for low-quali-
ty teachers to be dismissed. While the House bills have laudable
measures, especially where it minimizes the importance of
seniority, the generalized and vague nature of the legislation's
language may limit its potential. The lack of explicit outlines
for deeming teachers effective or ineffective, along with the
shortfall of incentives for educators, ultimately outweigh the
positive aspects of the legislation. The state Senate must not let
these bills become law.

Ken Robinson, education expert
and creativity guru, claims in a
thought-provoking video from TED, a
non-profit organi-
zation that encour-
ages the spread
of new ideas, that
the current school
system educates us
out of our creativ-
ity. Robinson illus-
trates his case with ERIK
an example: "Ask a TORENBERG
class of first grad-
ers which of them
thinks they're creative and they'll all
put their hands up. Ask a group of col-
lege seniors this same question and
most of them won't."
Your perception of your own cre-
ativity - the ability to generate origi-
nal ideas that add value - is often a
self-fulfilling prophecy. It's misguided
to view it as somethingyoueither have
or you don't. Like any skill, it can be
deconstructed and deliberately prac-
ticed. Through personal experience,
as well as consulting various books
and dogs, I'veaidentified three habits
that foster creativity.
The first habit: Write your ideas
down. Carry a notebook with you
everywhere. Your brain is good at
creating ideas. Paper is good for
storing them.
For example, if you're working on a
paper or a group project, write ideas
and insights consistently. Often times
if you start a project in the morning
and take a break, ideas will come to
you throughout the day, like when
you're in the shower or on a walk. If
you don't write them down you'll lose
them. My column isn't solely writ-
ten in a four-hour chunk. It's spread
out over several unexpected "a-ha"
moments - a response here, a rebuttal
to a potential argument there.
The second habit: Review your
ideas at least once a week. Review-
ing your ideas allows you to notice
patterns in your thoughts, encour-
aging you to connect them. You can
read over them or use tools like the
mobile application Thoughtback.
Every time you add a thought to
the app, it sends you back a random
thought you've had in the past.
Steve Johnson, author of "Where
Good Ideas Come From," explains this
phenomenon. Good ideas don't come
from solitary "Eureka" moments.
They are the connection of tangential
ideas and experiences that have been
accumulated. You read this article
here, talk to this person there and
then leave your head in the clouds for
a bit and before you know it, you've
got a narrative. Or a business idea. Or
something thoughtful to say. Writing

them down expedites the idea build- 4
ing process, but you need to add the
second habit to maximize the benefits.
The third habit: Share your
thoughts with others. Networks like
Silicon Valley are so conducive to
success because people constantly
share their ideas - they "get all the
spare parts on the table," as Johnson
states in his book. The collective can
add invaluable feedback: "Try doing
this. Have you thought of that?" Or
my personal favorite: "That's already
been done - 10 years ago."
A recent piece in the New Yorker
about innovation and creativity,
written by Malcolm Gladwell, shows
these three habits in action:
"A genius is a genius...because he
can put together such a staggering
number of insights, ideas, theories,
random observations and unexpect-
ed connections that he almost inevi-
tably ends up with something great.
Quality is a probabilistic function of
quantity."

4

Like any skill,
ingenuity can be
practiced.

According to a June 9 Detroit
Free Press article, the four bills
propose revising the process
for removing tenured teachers
from the classroom. Proponents
of these measures argue that
changing the current tenure sys-
tem will not only save time and
money, but also encourage more
rigid evaluation of educators -
an essential move for improv-
ing education in the state. Under
the new legislation, all teachers
- regardless of tenured status -
will now be regularly evaluated
as either "effective" or "ineffec-
tive." This is a vital step in terms
of education reform -Four cur-
rent education system is anti-
quated, placing more emphasis
on seniority rather than quality.
By taking steps to level the play-
ing field, the proposed legisla-
tion encourages establishing a
more competitive environment
for teachers, ensuring that teach-
ers will be placed in classrooms
based on merit and skill rather
than seniority. It's clear that the

state needs to up the ante when
it comes to education, and this
set of bills promotes a high level
of quality and accountability in
teachers.that cannot exist under
more lenient tenure systems.
Though the bill certainly takes
positive steps forward in improv-
ing Michigan's education system,
the vague language of the legisla-
tion hinders its potential success.
The bills' creators emphasized
the importance on assessments
of teacher quality, but the leg-
islation lacks comprehensive
instructions on how to quantify
or qualify the effectiveness of
teachers. Without some kind of
system to evaluate educators,
the legislation may flounder in
practice. The bills also disallow
collective bargaining for issues
such as performance evaluation
systems and the placement of
teachers. Considering the gener-
alized nature of the bills, espe-
cially when it comes to its quality
assessment systems, it's illogical
to throw out unions' rights to

provide input on the new evalua-
tion procedures.
While the bills create a rough
outline for eliminating inef-
fective teachers - a crucial
step in comprehensive educa-
tion reform - the legislation
ignores the need to incentivize
the profession. A good educa-
tion bill must not only draft a
fair system for the dismissal
of substandard educators, but
also attract new profession-
als of the quality it purports
to be in favor of. Despite the
irrefutable need to drastically
improve the education system
in Michigan, teaching remains
an underappreciated profession
both economically and socially.
When drafting bills that aim to
improve education, state legis-
lators will end up doing more
harm than good by making
teaching a less desirable pro-
fession. The state Senate must
vote down these measures until
the bills include reforms that
increase the appeal of teaching.

The first habit: Write everything
down. Check. The second habit:
Review insights, theories and ran-
dom observations. Check. And the
third habit?
The New Yorker piece goes on to
chronicle how Steve Jobs stole the
idea of a personal computer from
Xerox. The story displays Xerox as
the big loser, but in reality, Xerox was
a huge success. Xerox created a user
unfriendly, unmarketable PC, and
if they hadn't shared their creation
with Jobs, there wouldn't have been
a huge market for Xerox's flagship
product: the printer. It took losing the
big one - the computer - to win the
small accomplishment of the printer,
which considering Xerox's success
today, isn't that small.
The third habit: Share your ideas.
Check.
Ken Robinson outlined what cre-
ativity is and why it's important.
But he didn't outline how it could be
taught - and more importantly, how
it can be learned. But don't take soy
word for it. Experiment with these
habits, develop some of your own and
see what works for you. That's some-
thing to mull over in a notebook.
Erik Torenberg can be reached
at erikto@umich.edu.

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