[cross-posted from my CGT 512 blog] – with some special notes about yoga and innovation here.

One of the things I love most about Purdue (and makes me feel at home here) is that I get to work with so many people from all around the world. I can’t help but notice the legacies of various educational systems leave on students. These are just my observations, and I’m most probably over-generalizing here, but here I go:

We often hear complaints about the American education system: kids don’t learn the fundamentals; they can’t spell; critical thinking suffers. People coming from educational systems such as China, India, and (I’d say) Romania do learn the fundamentals. They can understand and synthesize ideas. Their work endurance is much higher. They simply put in more hours without expecting to have as much fun.

And then I saw in the news this story about a 17-year old girl who built a neural network that diagnoses breast cancer¬†that’s 99.1% sensitive to malignant cells, in her trials.

And then I stumbled upon this company that makes plush toys from your dog’s photos in order to generate funds for animal shelters. It began with a little girl’s idea and her insistence, and, of course, parents who went along with it.¬†

My observation is that people like me, who come from the Romanian, Indian, Chinese educational systems (they must have some things in common) are really good at learning, understanding, explaining information. But we are afraid to create. I know in Romania at least, we are told that we first have to master all that came before us before we can start creating. It is a daunting task, and by the time we’re done, it’s often too late. We have this reverence for the “great thinkers”… I remember how shocked I was when I first started grad school in the U.S. that you could argue with Aristotle. “What do you mean, question Aristotle? He is ARISTOTLE!” I am still amused, outraged, and in awe of American irreverence and the freedom people take (even people who don’t understand Aristotle well) to just argue – to improve, to innovate, upon Aristotle’s ideas (and by “Aristotle,” of course, I mean any big name).

Creativity and innovation cannot be attributed solely to the educational system. Culture and economy inform entrepreneurial spirit. And yet, the question has been bugging me, What kind of educational system does it take to foster creativity and innovation? What are some practices that we should include in the way we teach and learn, that will encourage and foster creative, innovative thinking?

I leave you with a TED talk by IDEO’s David Kelley on building creative confidence. It doesn’t answer my question, though, so please let me know. What have been your experiences in school that you feel have helped foster your creative, innovative thinking?

As much as I love innovation in technology and as smitten as I am with new and shiny things, I am very conservative, though, with innovation in yoga. I don’t think it’s necessary. I think it can even be dangerous. I think there is value in preserving a tradition that has been developed over years of very deep practice. Unless you have practiced enough yoga to be able to feel and control prana and know how it is affected by asana, I don’t think you are in a position to innovate. You may, but you don’t really know what you’re messing with and what the consequences may be. I am appalled and scared by this trend that every yoga teacher create their “brand” of yoga. It must be a result of making yoga a product that is marketed and needs to be differentiated from other products, I guess. I understand that every teacher sees something that others do not, from their own personal angle, colored by their own personal experience. I understand teaching from their own perspective, teaching what it’s like from them. After all, every teacher shares her/his own energy. That’s different and unique enough for me.

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