How Important Is Creativity?

How important is creativity?  It is vitally important.  It might save a civilization.  Just ask Arnold Toynbee.

Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975) was a British philosopher and historian of great renown.  He taught at King’s College for much of his career, and he studied the rise and fall of civilizations extensively.  In 1934 his twelve-volume A Study of History was published.  It was a monumental analysis of twenty-eight civilizations from around the world ranging from ancient to modern (early 20th century) times.  According to Toynbee, the primary difference between civilizations that failed and those that continued to grow and exist was creativity. 

In Toynbee’s analysis, he noted that every civilization studied encountered some problems along the developmental cycle.  In those civilizations that succeeded there existed what Toynbee called “a creative minority,” a small group within the larger civilization that identified problems and generated ideas for solving problems.  Because of their ability to see things from different perspectives and their willingness to share their perspectives, they were able to convince the majority of society to adopt their ideas.  This, according to Toynbee, was the single difference maker.

As you prepare for next week, think of ways that you can encourage creativity in your classroom.  Identify some real-life problems (age appropriate of course) for students to explore.  Have students brainstorm possible solutions, share their ideas with others, and work together to improve on the best ideas.  You may be preparing them to save a civilization!

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