The news this month includes the passing of 96 year old Maxine Greene, a leading educational theorist at Columbia Teachers College. She was a progressive thinker that believed the most effective path to learning was “creative thinking and vivid imaging.” The core of her belief was that “the color, glimmer and sound” of the arts were an essential part of learning. She wanted her students to engage the world both as it is and what it could be.
Her use of the Thoreauvian “wide-awakeness,” hampered our struggle to avoid our electronic inputs so we can focus. We all try to avoid wasting hours on YouTube or turn off our devices for a day but to no avail. Two thirds of our work force cannot focus on one specific job. The answer may be found in our young children.
They are learning and doing at a prodigious rate. What’s their method?
Secure place so they can be absorbed in one thing without outside distractions or demands;
Narrow focus on the current obsession;
Not being self-consciousness, they ignore the little narratives found in our older heads and experience life directly.
The shelf of books between “wide-awakeness” and “art of focus” has many other titles. But the most important take away for STEM students and practitioners is three fold:
Put the creativity driver of STEAM into STEM;
Create a steam age environment of quiet, expect when your obsession sounds the whistle;
Immerse yourself into your self-made center of the universe and let creativity fly.
Bruce Weber, “Maxine Greene, 96, Dies: Education Theorist Saw Arts as Essential,” The New York Times, June 3, 2014 David Brooks, “The Art of Focus,” The New York Times, June 3, 2014