Education and the myth of the correct solution

[2010-04-25] education, life
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Suppose you have to solve a problem. An idea that frequently comes up next for me is that there is a correct, a perfect way of solving it. The associated image is one of a solution that is “out there” and just has to found. Obviously, this image has a paralyzing effect, because you can fail, by not finding the solution. That is, it stifles creativity. Ken Robinson has talked about how our education system often fosters this viewpoint. To illustrate, he mentions divergent thinking (the full talk is also available), coming up with as many and as diverse solutions as possible, one of the elements of creativity: A study revealed percentages of genius-level divergent thinking among test subjects. Ages 3-5 the percentage was 98%, ages 8-10 it was 32%, ages 13-15 it was 10%, and finally ages 25+ it was only 2%. Something happens that makes the divergent thinking go away. This is sad, as many of the problems modern society is faced with can only be solved by this kind of thinking.
Thus, I think it is better to replace the mental image of the perfect solution with one that involves creativity. One actually creates something new, that never has been done quite this way before and never will be afterward.