All posts tagged fear

Suddenly Talking Politics? 5 Tips from a Poli. Sci. Prof

by Christopher Moore

The national elections this month were some of most surprising of our students’ lifetimes, and they capped off a controversial and sometimes painful campaign season. Students are processing their thoughts and have many questions. To help them think well together about politics, consider these tips:

  1. Remember it’s their first election. Freshmen were likely born right as the Monica Lewinsky scandal was breaking. George W. Bush left office when they were ten. Barack Obama has been the only President they’ve experienced as emerging adults. If they’re making a bigger deal about the election than you think is necessary, consider their novice context.
  2. Communicate that Bethel is a place to disagree. Bethel is not politically homogeneous, and it’s probably less politically homogeneous than they think, or than we think. We can remind students they’re going to encounter a variety of viewpoints here, and that’s a good thing.
  3. …but disagree without being disagreeable. Bethel’s irenic spirit and our pursuit of the truth are values that point us to respectful dialogue in our political disagreements. Many of our students learned more from the conduct of this brutal and acrimonious campaign than anything thing else in their political lives. Social media has only exacerbated this negativity. Use this  chance to show a different, more loving, and respectful form of conduct.
  4. Seek engagement over conversion. Students who ask us about politics value our opinions. Value theirs.  They also see us as authorities (at least in our fields), and responsible evaluators in the classroom. If you are strident in a political point of view, students might feel pressured to agree with you for reasons beyond politics. I prefer to approach political discussions with students as opportunities to discover opinions and verify facts.  It’s never about convincing them to vote the way I do.
  5. Don’t be afraid. Politics, money, and religion are the three things we shouldn’t discuss in polite company. (I do all three as part of my job). Discussing politics with students can cause apprehension. Will I offend them?  What if they punish me on my teaching evaluations because they disagree with my politics? These are valid concerns, but in my experience, our students are far less fragile than some reporting about Millennials suggests. If they’re asking, they want to know. And especially if we approach our responses with humility and civility, I think students respect that. Of course, healthy boundaries are always appropriate. I never endorse candidates or parties in the classroom, for example. You may want have other boundaries, too— but don’t be fearful.

Old School Creativity: 5 Classics on Innovation Still Stand

A batch of fresh-baked creativity books fills the Amazon.com oven. Creativity is all the rage.

Last year, in a set of articles in “The Atlantic,” William Deresiewicz and Robinson Meyer debated the cultural-historical arc from “artisan,” through “genius” to “creative.” Deresiewicz derides the last term, finding it more hipster than helpful.

I have some sympathy for Deresiewicz’s attachment to bygone definitions of artistry and innovation. Much of the contemporary school of creativity has taken a distinctly self-help, pop psychology turn. A turn patently unhelpful to teachers, especially in higher ed., whose efforts to engage and facilitate discovery must be reliable and reproducible.

While rock-star authors like Elizabeth Gilbert and business gurus like Pixar’s Ed Catmull get much of the ink (virtual and otherwise) now, some older explorations of creativity stand strong as time-tested research and rumination on promoting ingenuity and vision.

5 Throwback Books on Creativity to Add to Goodreads

The Creative Process edited by Brewster Ghiselin

Includes nearly 40 selections, many brief and potent, on creativity in the arts and sciences written by figures from Poincaré to Picasso, Stein to Einstein

The Mathematician’s Apology by G.H. Hardy

Accessible even to those outside mathematics, Hardy, a 19th century British mathematician—who believed “the creative life was the only one for the serious man”– explores the aesthetics of mathematics

Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland

Though anchored in the creation of visual art, Bayles and Orland address contextual influences on the creative process—the classroom, institutional demands, finances, criticism and good ole fear

Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Many educators know Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theory. Here he draws on interviews with creators from many backgrounds to examine flow in innovation

The Shape of Content by Ben Shahn

The first and last chapters, particularly, of this Harvard professor and painter’s reflections on creativity stare straight at the tensions between structure and freedom elicited by the liberal arts institution

If your grading load (or kids’ ages) won’t allow a book-length read now, head to the databases with one name: R. Keith Sawyer. Editor of the (literal) textbook on creativity– Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation—Sawyer also has several articles relevant to creativity and the classroom. These include:

  • “Distributed creativity: How collective creations emerge from collaboration.” With Stacy DeZutter in Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts 3.2
  • “The Cognitive Neuroscience of Creativity: A Critical Review.” Creativity Research Journal 23.2
  • “Improvisation and the Creative Process: Dewey, Collingwood, and the aesthetics of spontaneity.” Journal of Aesthetics & Art Criticism 58.2