Do Schools Kill Creativity? It’s an incendiary question, so no wonder Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk on the subject is one of the top 20 most-watched talks in the world. He says that with the rapidly evolving technical world and shifting job-market/demand, “my contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy.”
What do you think? Do schools kill creativity? Mind you, this question isn’t meant to denigrate educators who work tirelessly to find new and creative ways to transmit material. The question Sir Ken Robinson brings up is whether the educational system itself is set up for students to flex their creative muscles in the same way they learn their multiplication tables.
He argues it isn’t.
Sir Ken Robinson believes that our current public education system is not designed to value creativity. This is shown by how we have come to stigmatize mistakes, not only in education, but in the way we run our companies. Allowing mistakes, allowing oneself to be wrong so students can learn to fail forward and transform failure into feedback is a crucial part of education. It is the only real way to explore one’s creativity. Unfortunately, in the age of Common Core and standardized testing, making mistakes is something the institution of education simply doesn’t allow time for.
He says, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original… We’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities.”
So why are schools set up this way? Robinson tells us that the educational system as we know it didn’t exist before the 19th century. It came into existence to meet the needs of the Industrial Revolution. This topic is one highly discussed by Seth Godin, a highly popular entrepreneur: how straight rows of desks and learning to find the “right” answer was a necessity for students to function successfully in the job market of the time. The only problem is, the jobs of tomorrow look nothing like the assembly lines of Henry Ford, and the skills needed to succeed then are vastly different from what is needed now.
Robinson adds, “The consequence [of this system today] is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized.”
Robinson discusses Gillian Lynne, the brilliant dancer/choreographer behind well-known Broadway hits such as Cats and Phantom of the Opera. When she was in school, she had an incredibly difficult time. She couldn’t sit still, distracted others with her fidgeting, and had a hard time concentrating. Her mother took her to a doctor who noticed her need to move. Today, she’d likely be diagnosed with ADHD. This doctor recommended she be enrolled in dance class. Gillian recounted to Robinson how she was amazed to find so many others like her in the dance world: people who had to MOVE to THINK. Today, we honor Gillian Lynne as a woman who has had an insanely successful career. Robinson asks us to ruminate on how someone somewhere may have missed her creative genius, and instead of cultivating it, just told her to “take some medicine and calm down.”
To conclude his point, Robinson states, “Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we stip-mine the earth: for a particular commodity.” This commodity has changed, and our educational approach needs to change with it. This creative freedom is one of the guiding principles of the work we do at CMASAS. Online high school students experience the opportunity to personalize their education, to find mediums and methods that work for them to create a singular life of wonder.
As one of our CMASAS parents, Marie French, told us: "Creative pursuits in school help children to find the whole within themselves that has been sliced out.”
How do you think creativity will play a role in building our future? Thank you for joining us in this discussion.