Creativity and Palo Alto Schools?
Original post made by Simon on Oct 17, 2006
I also have a child due to enter Palo Alto kindergarten next year. Can parents of children in currently enrolled in PAUSD tell meshould I expect to be surprised by the ways in which children in the district are encouraged to develop creatively? Or is it your experience that our schools focused almost entirely instead on graduating students who do well on standardized tests?
on Oct 17, 2006 at 7:54 pm
Simon, just make sure your children go to Ohlone!
on Oct 18, 2006 at 10:12 am
A good question. These are rambling thoughts from someone who has not been in the district for the full span of my students' education. At least at the high school level, it's common knowledge many Palo Alto parents focus their energies on strongly encouraging/preparing their children to receive top grades and SAT scores for admission to prestigious colleges. Students then have this mindset. It IS a narrow focus with a goal in mind (admission to a prestigious college).
I don't believe "creativity" is often promoted as an asset, though it should be, except in those cases where you have artists in your family! GPA is much more likely to be a topic of conversation every day among students. Guess what - that is boring, competitive, sometimes meant to be demoralizing to others.It's also personal and students should exercise good taste by keeping personal info to themselves rather than inflicting it upon the general student population. Modesty used to be a virtue. Don't even get me started on how teens use the net.
Parents are highly involved in students' lives, which is supposed to be a good thing (apparently more than what was done 40 years ago, according to what I heard yesterday on the news). They often have the means to pay top dollar for tutors, test prep, special outside schools, activities, and other preparation in advance of coursework to ensure better grades than those that would have been earned under normal conditions, and for competitive purposes. Seems like there's little experimentation. Other students and their parents then feel the pressure of those artificially accelerated children and feel they must do the same things to keep pace. And - don't tell me these are all "gifted" children because they aren't. Many are quite "normal" but don't get the choice as to how they spend their time. I feel sorry for those who cannot afford these expenses, their students are at a disadvantage compared to "prepared" students.
I agree "creativity" is important, it's so basic - how do people get ideas, invent things, come up with cures, etc.? There is no one exact script or plan to follow to success (say, which particular courses to take in our high schools here) but that sure is the popular belief. I would argue that the kid who decides to try something new (like an additional foreign language beyond the main one he/she picked to study in depth) should be encouraged for being "creative" as an individual, even though there won't be time to take the AP test in that language, etc. and get those brownie points on the paper record and a parent may worry the student is "wasting" precious time.
I am unsure how "creativity" is fostered in PAUSD, but I am not faulting the schools/teachers/administrators on this. Surely people can respond with various examples (please, no bureaucrat-speak, though - just give simple, concrete examples, we know there is an Art program that meets the state of CA framework... but that doesn't address individuality/creativity), I just don't believe parents think of "creativity" as a priority in today's fast-paced lives. However, whatever IS mainly emphasized in the schools here is parent-driven. The curriculum seems solid.
MY perception is that the thoughtfulness, experimentation, reflection, journal writing, etc. - however you describe it, (because it would be different from individual to individual) - necessary to "be creative" as an individual is not necessarily valued by some parents here, perhaps because it is viewed as wasting time.
I have also heard Ohlone is "creative" and developmentally-appropriate for young children. But, I have heard a few parents express reservations because it is not "fast track" - but is that necessary at such a young age? Let's try to let children have a childhood.
on Oct 18, 2006 at 10:14 am
oops, my sentence about having artists in the family wasn't written very clearly - I meant that if you have artists in the family, you likely have creative influences and examples around you, otherwise creativity as a subject may not come up and be promoted as an asset.