Do schools kill creativity?

I have watched this video a few times. And I have spoken to a few people who have also watched it, and who were equally impressed with it. But how has it been able to achieve almost 40,000,000 million views? The speaker certainly knows how to entertain a crowd but maybe, just maybe, his message resonates. I really hope that some of those viewers have been teachers. I hope you too will take the time to watch it (again).

I’d have to say that I would answer his question with a resounding ‘yes’. Education, in it’s current form, kills creativity. The education system in its current form was created out of a need to meet the needs of a new industrialised world. To create a work force. But times are changing. The whole world is engulfed in a technological revolution. Even though we like to suggest otherwise, nobody has a clue what the world will look like in 5 years, let alone in 50. But our education system is presented as though we do know. And all based around three core subjects – reading, writing and maths – the 3R’s. Yep, nothing has changed since my father and his father went to school. Well at least, not beyond the obvious surface features. Ken Robinson argues that “creativity is as important in education as maths and literacy and we should treat it with the same status.”

He observes that, “our education system is predicated on academic ability.” The smart ones who are destined for university. Not to study Humanities, of course. But to study a STEM subject. Because that’s what we need more of, according to the current NZ government. For these ones, it doesn’t matter that the education system robs them of their wonderful creative talents and capacity for innovation. They will survive, if not thrive. Hard work and compliance will get them through. High achievement and financial success can be used to justify stress and personal unhappiness. What about the rest? Those who don’t excel in the desirable core subjects? Their skills and talents are deemed as of limited value within education and out in the real world.

Kids will take a chance. If they don’t know something, they’ll have a go. They are not frightened of being wrong . Being wrong is not the same as being creative. If you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original. By the time children have become adults they have lost that capacity. Become frightened of being wrong/of making mistakes. This is how our education system works. We are educating people out of their creative capacities. We get educated out of creativity.

University is not, or should not be used as the determiner of high intelligence and success. It’s a definition that is way too narrow. Besides, with so many people now graduating with university degrees, they are becoming worthless – it’s called academic inflation. We need to stop directing our children to take subjects that we deem as valuable. We need to encourage them to find their talent and pursue that. We need to rethink our view of intelligence.

Unfortunately, I would predict that this is a risk that many of us will not be willing to take with our own children. Even if you have had personal experience that tells you otherwise. But the problem is bigger than you and I as individuals. It’s a societal issue. While we remain locked into this restricted view of intelligence, we will never be able to solve the problems that we face as a humanity – poverty, environmental degradation.

Our education system has mined our minds the way we have strip mined the earth. We need to rethink the fundamental principles on which we educate our children. We need to celebrate the gift of human imagination and start seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are and see our children for the hope that they are. Our task is to educate the whole child so they can face the unknown future.

On a personal note, I’m pleased to say that I am putting a lot of effort into addressing the ‘creativity deficit’ that he talks about. We still make plenty of time for the ‘important’ subjects of maths and language. But there is now also much more time for the children to explore and be creative. In some cases I have found myself having to really encourage children to find their creative space. I have had to really provoke and encourage. Movement and music is ever present in our daily routine. It’s wonderful. The children are growing enthusiastically into this new way of being and learning. As Ken Robinson says, “we all have bodies.” Too early on, we start teaching children from the waist up only.

Ease Education: Teaching at a human scale.

You can also find Ease Education on Facebook and Twitter.

2 thoughts on “Do schools kill creativity?

  1. Pingback: Standards and creativity can co-exist in the classroom | Ease Education

  2. Pingback: Technology, creativity, and computer led creative destruction. | Ease Education

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