Scott Barry Kaufman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a thought leader at the upcoming National Principals Conference in July, is one of the foremost scholars on intelligence and creativity. In this month’s questionnaire, we asked Kaufman about how his views on creativity and intelligence can improve schools; STEM education; The Future Project; and his favorite movie.

How would you redefine intelligence?

I like to think of intelligence as the dynamic interplay of engagement and ability in the pursuit of personal goals. The more we engage in something personally meaningful to us, the more our ability grows, and the more our ability grows, the more we desire to engage in the activity. For too long, theories and measurement of intelligence have left out the whole child.

How can principals utilize the redefinition of intelligence to improve their schools?

I really like The Future Project, an educational organization that has set out to inspire a whole new generation of students. They have created a full-time position in the schools [they work with] called a “Dream Director,” whose job it is to unlock the creative possibilities of every student in the school. Drawing on this model, I think principals can conceptualize themselves as dream directors, and attempt to create an educational culture in which students feel as though their personal passions and goals are encouraged, and their unique personality and minds are accepted unconditionally.*

How can principals improve STEM education?

By incorporating STEM into everything, from music to art to history. The scientific method, and an emphasis on testing things for evidence, is a way of thinking about the world that is so crucial today. This can be incorporated into any curriculum.

What was your favorite subject in high school?

Choir and orchestra—I know, those are two subjects! 

What is the best book you’ve read recently and why?

I really liked The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith. It made me realize all the different ways we can get meaning in our lives, from our relationships to our spiritual engagement to the stories we tell about ourselves.

What is your favorite movie and why?

That’s a tough one! Recently, I really liked “Dunkirk.” It showed what humans are capable of—war and aggression, as well as resiliency, grace, and love. It’s all within us. 

What is your motto?

“Mental health is characterized by the ability to love and create.” — Erich Fromm  

*Editor’s note: NASSP is among The Future Project national partners. NASSP’s 2018 National Principals Conference advisory panel includes future-ready thought leaders: Jason Markey, East Leyden High School, IL; Sheila Evans, Edenton-Chowan Public Schools, NC; Dwight Carter, New Albany High School, OH; and Trevor Greene, Highline Public Schools, WA. All are examples of what’s possible through innovative school programs.