It's not easy to figure out how schools can balance creativity with academic rigor, productive thinking with knowledge. The nations that do so will have the competitive edge in the future.On first read, this made sense to me as a proponent of creativity and productive or critical thinking. Then I realized I am not an opponent of rigor and knowledge, and neither is the author. But, the author's statement does suggest there is a trade-off between these approaches that must be balanced.
On second read, I realized the folly of this fabricated trade-off. It shows a fundamental lack of understanding of how creativity and innovation work and what rigor means.
Proponents and explainers of creativity, such as Ken Robinson in "Out of Our Minds," would likely argue that creativity and innovation are most productive when pursued through a rigorous structure. Examples of this abound in industry, with the working structure of Pixar being a favorite. It is clear that innovation happens when people are mixed in purposeful ways and made to think both critically and in modes that expand their knowledge base.
There is also a misconception of the definition of rigor. Rigor is a concept that is not easily defined and one that may have a variety of meanings depending where it is employed (something at odds with "standardized" testing). In "Change Leadership," Tony Wagner and Robert Kegan state that rigor is not more work or harder work - probably what most people think it is. They suggest rigor is more about a measurable, quality product. They write,
Rigor is about what students are able to do as a result of a lesson. Rigor implies holding students accountable for meeting certain objective, qualitative standards and measuring progress regularly... In our view, however, test performance does not often measure students' ability to demonstrate their reasoning and apply their knowledge.Here, it is clear that reasoning and knowledge are two sides of the same coin and are not at odds with each other or goals that require a trade-off. Indeed, creativity and innovation (applying knowledge in new ways) can come from a rigorous (measured accountability) system.
In conclusion, I would restate the initial premise that, "It's not easy to figure out how schools can balance creativity with academic rigor, productive thinking with knowledge." The statement should read: Those countries that can acknowledge that creativity and innovation, though not easily measured on standardized tests, should be pursued with rigor will be the ultimate winners.
End the rigor-mortis of standardized tests that do not respect creativity and innovation, and Reclaim Public Education!