Creativity and imagination are limited

health : "Imagination is more important than knowledge"

Albert Einstein once wrote that the “joy, the sacred curiosity of research” is a “delicate little plant” which, in addition to stimulation, “mainly needs freedom”. His Munich high school teachers would have strangled this little plant in him. What can educational policy learn from Einstein, his career and his ideas? How can it prepare the ground on which creative spirits like Einstein can develop? We asked experts and politicians.

Edelgard Bulmahn (SPD), Federal Education Ministers:

Einstein teaches us that joy in thinking and curiosity pay off. That people have to be open to change and stand up for their convictions - despite all adversities! Einstein's personality and his scientific achievements are unique. Einstein's life story shows that you have to be ready to broaden your horizons and not be afraid of new experiences.

Johanna Wanka (CDU), President of the Conference of Ministers of Education:

For me, the example of Einstein shows the importance of freedom, imagination, curiosity and thirst for knowledge for a successful school life and for successful research. Einstein always emphasized that he was strangled "the sacred curiosity of research" through compulsion and authoritarian thinking in his Munich grammar school, while his Swiss school encouraged him with its liberal spirit and the natural authority of the teachers. The joy of looking and searching: If we can support and maintain it in kindergarten, school and study, then the foundation stone has been laid for the successful development of our children and our country.

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited, but imagination encompasses the whole world. ”This statement by Einstein is also very topical, especially in the knowledge society. Because we are only too aware of the declining half-life of knowledge. Education today should above all encourage dealing with knowledge and its changes, openness to new things - and, of course, fantasy. Because then our children can survive in life, no matter how the conditions may change. Einstein's comparison between his German and Swiss schools also stems from the insight, “... how much education for free action and self-responsibility is superior to education that is based on drill, external authority and ambition. Real democracy is not an empty delusion. "

Jürgen Mlynek, President of the Humboldt University in Berlin:

Knowledge is the only raw material that increases with use. Education is the basis for this. A Chinese proverb says: "If you want to go to the springs, you have to swim against the current." Einstein is particularly responsible for this. We need more courage to think outside the box and greater freedom beyond considerations of utility.

There is no one-size-fits-all recipe for preparing the ground for new Einsteins, but universities can play an important role: They are places where new knowledge is generated and imparted. They serve the search for truth. Inspiration and intellectual adventure are in the foreground here, as is the leisure to think. A return to these university virtues can prepare the ground for new Einsteins. So we need free spaces of the spirit, especially for young people.

More money or less bureaucracy alone does not bring Einstein, it depends on the right minds and the right mentality. Einstein finally developed his ideas in the Bern patent office, where he had leisure and time, regardless of money, research funds or bureaucracy.

Katherina Reiche, education policy spokeswoman for the CDU parliamentary group in the Bundestag:

“Personalities are not formed by beautiful speeches, but by work and personal performance.” This quote from Einstein applies to our entire educational biography. We need better schools that provide the foundations on which a lifetime can be built. We have to design our universities to be performance-oriented, competitive and, above all, free. Einstein taught us that the impossible must also be thought and said, and that can only happen in a climate of freedom of research and teaching. At the moment, however, we have a climate of hesitation and pessimism.

We need optimism for the future, courage and curiosity about unknown future fields. There is a lack of this among the political elites, but also in society as a whole: the spirit of research should be awakened much more strongly in schools and the spirit of discovery in families. A climate of freedom and openness is crucial for scientific excellence. Anyone who demonizes green genetic engineering and nuclear technology, for example, creates a climate in which other research no longer feels at home.

Peter Gaehtgens, President of the German Rectors' Conference:

Einstein teaches us that creativity is an important element of any educational endeavor. It is not enough to teach and research in a streamlined manner. The contribution of the individual, an unusual individual like Einstein, is important. Einstein was not only an eminent physicist, but also had strong musical and literary interests; his creativity was not limited to science. Scientists tend to be more versatile than other professions because they extend the creativity necessary for science to other areas. This versatility enables outstanding performance.

So that creative minds like Einstein can develop, it is important that the organizational framework of science offers the greatest possible flexibility. There must be no bureaucratic restrictions that stop lateral thinkers. Nowadays science is often spoken of as if it were a screw factory that should produce results in the most efficient way possible. Science cannot, however, be compared with an industrial production process; we do not produce standardized products.

Recorded by Dorothee Nolte

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