National Summit to Promote Role of Imagination in Schools

By Erik W. Robelen — July 07, 2011 2 min read
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Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

Well, an upcoming conference dubbed the Imagination Summit will explore ways to make imagination an integral part of American education. Speakers at the two-day event in New York City bring expertise in a variety of sectors, from education and science to business and the arts.

“Imagination—the ability to visualize new possibilities—is a skill that can and must be taught to students at every level,” said Scott Noppe-Brandon, the executive director of the Lincoln Center Institute, in a recent press release. The institute, which is the educational arm of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, is organizing the summit.

The goal of the two-day event, Noppe-Brandon said, is to create an action plan for cultivating imaginative thinking in schools. This apparently will include a specific set of new initiatives to “spur the growth of imagination, creativity, and innovation” in the United States, the press release says.

The lead sponsors for the July 21-22 summit are the Walt Disney Company and the National Education Association.

The effort comes at a time when the rhetoric about improving education is routinely couched in the context of helping to maintain the nation’s competitive economic edge, with plenty of talk about fostering creativity in young people. In a report issued last fall, for example, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology said that to stay on the leading edge of science and technology, the nation “must cultivate a large pool of STEM experts with the knowledge, drive, and imagination to advance the frontiers of science and industry.”

The conference announcement also rang the competitiveness bell, noting that imagination has been widely cited as “a fundamental skill for individuals and for the country as the U.S. strives to compete in today’s global economy.”

The cast of characters taking part in the Imagination Summit is extremely diverse. Here’s a quick sampling of expected speakers:

• Sir Ken Robinson, a British author and expert in the fields of arts education and creativity;

• Physician and author Deepak Chopra;

• Vice Admiral Michael H. Miller, the superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy;

• Bruce Vaughan, the “chief creative executive” at Walt Disney Imagineering;

• Los Angeles schools Superintendent John Deasy;

• Former astronaut Charles Camarda, now a senior advisor for innovation at the Johnson Space Center; and

• Jim Shelton, the assistant deputy secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education.

The summit is described as the culmination of a series of “imagination conversations” organized by the Lincoln Center Institute around the country. These local events, the press release said, engaged leaders in business, government, the arts, and education to “explore the role that imagination plays in American society, how people in virtually every field of endeavor experience imagination, and how imagination, creativity, and innovation are at the heart of the current educational discussion.”

For those interested in checking out the summit but unable to attend in person, it will be live-streamed. (The link for that is not available yet.)

Photo: Albert Einstein in 1931. Doris Ulmann/Library of Congress

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.