Blankson responds; ‘greatest problem’ facing colleges today


Each week, the editors will choose an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education. An interview will be conducted with several CAS professors. The responses will be posted in this section in a straightforward Q&A layout.

This section is opinion based.

The editors of This Week In CAS are asking that you, the professors of CAS, use this as an opportunity to look outside your department and consider what your CAS colleagues  think about the issues of the academy.

Q: In a recent opinion article featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Teach Creativity, Not Memorization,” author Robert J. Sternberg writes: “The greatest problem facing colleges today in admissions, instruction and assessment is that administrators are locked into an archaic notion of what it means to be intelligent.” Sternberg goes on to explain that students need to be taught in ways that reflect how they learn and that educators should foster creativity rather than memorization. What are your thoughts?


Isaac Blankson, professor and chair of speech communication, engaged in a discussion with students in his Communication, Culture and Global Issues Honors Seminar class.

A: I am not in agreement with Dr. Sternberg for the following reasons:

First,  I don’t agree that this is the greatest problem facing higher education today. In my view, the greatest problem is fostering a sense of accountability and  responsibility in our students.  There is enough evidence in our society to make me believe that educational institutions are failing in this area.

Second, it is true that educational institutions have to think creatively in how they conceptualize and measure “intelligent.” Unfortunately, Sternberg’s statement  implies that memorization is the only  learning style being taught and that creativity and memorization are dichotomous learning objectives. In reality, educational institutions have and continue to encourage the use of diverse student learning styles and methods/techniques of instruction. This includes memorization, critical thinking, reflective learning, creative design, synthesis and many others.

Again, I reject the notion that creativity and memorization, as methods of student learning, are dichotomous. In actual fact, memorization requires students to recall the information when it is necessary, appropriate and needed. Thus, memorization, and ultimately recall, to many disciplines are important learning objectives that lay the foundation for the others such as synthesis, critical thinking, and creative problem solving. Without the ability to recall important foundational knowledge stored in memory, creativity is just an empty word that doesn’t translate into a meaningful skill.

Isaac Blankson
Department Chair and Associate Professor of Speech Communication

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