More Creativity in the Classroom

A creative mindset is in increasingly high demand: employers are vying for workers who are able to dream big and deliver big with the next must-have product. Creative thinking fuels innovation, it leads to new goods and services, creates jobs and delivers substantial economic rewards. However, without adequately cultivating creativity in our schools at the state and local level, states like my home state of North Carolina will not be able to compete with other states and countries who already do.

It is not enough to just rely on fine arts classes to infuse creativity into our students, although they are critical. We must also find ways to incorporate creativity across a broad range of disciplines, using traditional subjects to impart essential skills like collaboration, problem-solving and effective communications.

North Carolina needs more of our young people to graduate from high school and college, but we also need to equip students at every level with the basic skills and creativity they will need to succeed in the workforce.

Think about it: 20 years ago, the Internet was just getting started, limited to a select few, and now our world is dependent upon it. Who knows what technology will emerge in the next five years, let alone 20. Yet the education we provide our children now is supposed to last for decades. We cannot train them for jobs that do not even exist yet, but we can provide them with the minds and tools they'll need to adapt to our ever-changing set of circumstances.

We need students to see unlikely connections, and develop solutions to complex problems. Answers are not enough, students should be encouraged to ask questions and explore alternatives to the norm. Entrepreneurship and invention are the backbone of the new economy, yet I doubt they get more than a nod in economics courses.

Here in my state, I'm calling for North Carolina to "color outside the lines." Let's encourage and reward creativity in our students -- and in our teachers. Let's breathe new life into our classrooms, making them more engaging with teaching that places value on both style and substance. And let's make a commitment, as a state, to prioritize creativity.

At the 25th Annual Emerging Issues Forum on February 8-9, we will gather some of the brightest minds in the state to determine a clear strategy for cultivating our state's creative assets. We'll try to understand creativity a little better, figure out how to harness it our schools and grow it in our businesses and communities.

Collaboration is a hallmark of creativity, and if we are to enact real change in this state, the input of our citizens is essential. I encourage every North Carolinian to join the conversation online at, where you can bring your own ideas, learn from others, and be inspired to act.

Implementing this kind of seismic shift in North Carolina's education system is not going to be easy and our schools cannot become creativity incubators overnight. But education is the foundation for all we do in life, it shapes who we are and what we aspire to be. Creativity fuels innovation, and it's what all states should strive to instill in the next generations.