Using the Past to Teach the Future

by William Childs

We’re all born creative. As children, our imagination flows freely. But, as we age and life starts to hack away at our childlike wonderment, it slowly gets depleted and drained out of us, which I find tragically sad. Unfortunately, our current high school educational model isn’t structured to support environments where students are encouraged to explore their creativity, wonderment, or curiosity openly. Instead, creativity is viewed as childish and of no inherent value or something that should only be done during an art class. As an international educational advisor, Sir Ken Robinson said about education reform, “If you can light the spark of curiosity in a child, they will learn without further assistance. Creativity is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” I believe that as we age and move through the different phases of life, our childlike wonderment gets replaced with adult responsibilities, and we lose touch with our inner genius. Things like conformity, fear of rejection, and a strong desire to ‘fit in’ become more significant concerns. Then, as we enter the workplace, many of us no longer have the appetite to stand out or go against the status quo, the things companies need to remain relevant.

 It’s time for me to stop hoping this situation improves and do something about it. So, I have decided to embark on a new adventure. This Fall, I’ll be one of the new Advertising Design teachers (Level 1) at Lehigh Career & Technical Institute. For years, there’s been a shift in the collective consciousness regarding students seeking skill-based careers who don’t feel a four-year college or university is right for them. I know because I was one of them. My high school back then didn’t offer Commercial Art as a career choice, so I chose to attend LCTI. It was the right decision because I wanted to start work immediately after graduating. I valued the training I received at LCTI and greatly admired and respected the teachers who helped prepare me to enter the workforce back in 1983. I’m humbled and honored to now join their ranks.

One of the approaches I’m excited about sharing in my class is a technique known as divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is a process or method of creative thought that works by exploring as many solutions as possible. It typically occurs spontaneously, in a free-flowing, non-linear, non-judgmental manner, and includes a diverse group of individuals. The technique is a great way to foster an environment at a company where everyone contributes to the growth of the business. Schools have traditionally taught a convergent model of thinking, which is the solution to a problem being deduced by applying established rules and logical reasoning. Not very inspiring or creative. During my advertising career, it was apparent that the results were tangible whenever a business embraced a culture where divergent thinking was encouraged and celebrated. The product was always better, the employees were happier, and the company drove bottom-line revenue off the ideas. Conversely, I saw the opposite occur when a divergent thinking model was not present. People were unhappy, the culture was often toxic, and revenue lagged. Mike Rowe, the former host of ‘Dirty Jobs’ and a big proponent of a trade school education, said, “Some jobs pay better, some jobs smell better. But work is never the enemy, regardless of the wage. Because somewhere between the job and the paycheck, there’s a thing called opportunity, which needs to be pursued.” With that sentiment, I’m excited to share what I’ve

learned with the next generation. Of course, every career has challenges, and teaching is no different. But I can’t think of anything more appropriate for me to be doing than playing a small role in helping to guide young adults as they work toward shaping their future and, ultimately, all of ours.

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