Nurturing the Next Steve Jobs

Image by Ben Stanfield*

Steve Jobs’s death on October 5 has sparked a public conversation about the personal qualities that enabled his astounding innovations and successes. Gene Pinder, writing for the North Carolina-based News and Observer, singles out one factor: Jobs “joined his love for the humanities and art with steely analytical thinking and discipline. Both served him well, and it should remind us all that one without the other fails to maximize the highest levels of human potential.” (For more on this point, see Walter Isaacson’s recent New York Times opinion piece.)

With this in mind, Pinder goes on to offer a broad critique of our society, arguing that “we have forgotten how to value imagination, and…have stopped rewarding it in our schools.” Noting, as Sir Ken Robinson has, that school experiences quash many students’ creativity, Pinder wonders whether the imaginative abilities of the next Jobs are currently being nurtured.

The article concludes with a vision of a new kind of education system, one that would put a premium on imagination, award scholarships to students with the best ideas (rather than SAT scores), and measure young people’s imaginative thinking skills as well as their knowledge. (I wonder if the author has heard of Dan Hunter, one of the speakers at our Imagination Summit, whose Creative Challenge Index was adopted by Massachusetts in 2010.)

“What if…innovation actually began in grade school and continued into adulthood?” asks Pinder. This is the question that Lincoln Center Institute has asked repeatedly, in one form or another, throughout our Imagination Conversations initiative and at America’s Imagination Summit in July.  The answer, to quote Steve Jobs’s favorite musical artist, is blowing in the wind.

Only by taking action in support of imaginative learning can we move beyond today’s status quo and establish a new educational paradigm.

*There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.

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