Do schools kill creativity?
Schools kill creativity. Over time, students lose their creative abilities simply because our teaching methods don’t stimulate innovation and free-thinking.
We listen, memorise and study only to feed it all back to the teachers when a test comes up. How is creativity supposed to subsist in such an impersonal and industrial way of teaching?
No one teaches kids to be creative, they simply are because they’re unhindered by the pre-made ways of thinking and expectations that will be thrust upon them later on.
“Why is the grass green?”, “What if water was a mirror that reflected the colour of the sky?”, I was that annoying kid whose favourite word was “Why?”. I used to ask my parents what colour things were because I couldn’t grasp the concept that (most of us) saw the exact same colours as every other person, and they humoured me. But then comes school and asking why ducks can have emerald green feathers but not bright hot pink ones is no longer judged as pertinent and worth answering, whether or not there actually is an answer.
We’re told to stop dreaming and live reality. So what do we learn in school? We learn to stop questioning the world, to go with the flow, and that there’s only one right answer to each question.
Creativity isn’t a test to take, it isn’t a skill to learn. Should it be taken care of, it can be refined, expanded perhaps. Creativity is about building universes out of nothing, seeing the intersection of seemingly unrelated topics and combining them into something new, seeing and communicating ideas in ways that are unique, compelling, and unexpected.
In one of the most watched TED talks, if not the most watched, educationalist Sir Ken Robinson claims that “schools kill creativity”, arguing that “we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather we get educated out of it”.
“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
Our education system teaches us that being wrong is the worst possible outcome. Our thought process is forced to conform to controlled paradigms of right and wrong, and so having ideas that don’t fit the mould are rejected. And in the past few decades, this fact has never been truer as drugs are being prescribed to children who don’t easily fall in line with the system’s ideal standards.
“We stigmatize mistakes in school, mistakes are the worst thing you can make. We are educating our kids out of their creative capacities.”
As evidence of how schools kill creativity, Robinson cites the example of a young girl called Gillian Lynne who, at the age of eight, was already viewed as a problem student with a learning difficulty due to her inability to sit still and concentrate. When her mother sought a medical explanation for Gillian’s constant fidgeting and lack of focus, the doctor suggested they speak privately. As the two adults got up to leave, the doctor turned on the radio. Left alone in a music-filled room, young Gillian began to dance. Observing her through the window, the doctor turned to her mother. “Gillian’s not sick” he said, “she’s a dancer”. Today, at the age of 92, Gillian can look back on a long career in ballet, dance and musical theatre which saw her become one of the world’s most successful choreographers, with hits like Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats and Phantom of the Opera among her many achievements. Yet her school had all but written her off, mistaking her talent for some form of behavioural problem or cognitive impairment.
“My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” – Ken Robinson
According to Robinson, all subjects deserve equal prestige and classes should not always be grouped by age. Dance is just as important as maths: “Children dance all the time if they’re allowed to, we all do,” he said in that seminal TED talk. “We all have bodies, don’t we? Did I miss a meeting?”
Every education system on earth has the same hierarchy of subjects: Mathematics and languages are rated higher than humanities, and the humanities are given more importance than the arts. Within the arts there would be further graduation: Art and music are higher rated than drama and dance. The result of an education focused on the children’s heads rather than their bodies, leads to a system whose ultimate goal is to form university professors.
As Robinson explains, this system was built to meet the needs of industrialism and is therefore based on two main ideas: On the one hand, it is based on the value of a person for the system, and it would not be an option to become a musician. And on the other hand, it is based on his or her “academic ability” since, by many, intelligence is linked with the latter, we have a limited view on intelligence and in its consequence, many highly-talented, brilliant people who do not fit in the system do not realize that they are.
Robinson says that we need to rethink the way we see intelligence and I agree with him. It is diverse as we think and learn in various ways, whether it be visually, physically, verbally and so on. It is dynamic as ideas often come about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things and it is distinct.