How Schools can Kill Creativity

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More and more, as technology develops, the world demands students who can think creatively and critically as there will be robots to do all the basic work for us. There needs to be an assurance that the next generation will be full of inventors, musicians, painters, mathematicians who will, in turn, bring humanity to another level.

In a forum tagged TED Talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” motivational speaker, Sir Ken Robinson said that instead of growing into creativity in school, we grow out of it. Students all over the world have had more years of schooling than they care to count. During this process, students are taught that making a mistake is a sin. We have planted in our students minds a picture of a perfectly, carefully drawn life.

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 probable learning difficulty due 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 extraordinary talent for some form of behavioural problem or cognitive impairment.

As evidence of how schools cultivate creativity by imparting the knowledge on which it so often depends, Leunig goes back to the Enlightenment. He talks about the introduction of crop rotation, which allowed more people to live off the produce of England’s soil, a pre-requisite for the mass movement of people from the fields to the factories, mills and mines that powered the industrial revolution.

He talks about the great breakthrough that allowed that revolution to happen: the invention of the steam engine by Thomas Newcomen. And he talks about the knowledge that led to this invention about knowledge of how, when steam condenses in a vessel, a vacuum is produced, and of how, therefore, a piston could be forced out of a cylinder when steam is injected into it and sucked back in again when the steam condenses. And he points out how this one brilliant insight enabled the British to “power the factories, get water out of the mines, and get locomotives running across the country and steam ships taking goods to the furthest corners of the globe”. Not only was this arguably the most important invention in economic history Leunig argues, but it wouldn’t have been possible without knowledge.

Today’s teaching techniques are taking the beauty out of learning. Diminishing creativity from our student’s mind is a serious problem with wide-reaching effects. How exactly are schools diminishing creativity?

We learn that being “good” means sitting still and nodding yes while being “bad” means attempting to do things differently.

The cycle of sitting still, memorizing, testing and getting a job has existed for a long time now and few dared to challenge it. However, those who dared to challenge the status quo like Albert Einstein, the Wright brothers, and Walt Disney have changed the course of history.

How do we expect students to be creative if teachers give them the outline, the title, and the structure of their “creative writing assignment?” We give students model answers to memorize, we give a specific title to write a poem about, and we truly give them everything but the freedom to express their ideas.

Youth have fresh ideas. While teachers complain that students are spending an awful lot of time on social networking, they forget to mention that it’s the only way we, the students, can have our voice heard.

Education isn’t about facts being stored in our minds so that we can get tested on them. Education is the beauty to nurture creativity, to fuel curiosity and to create a well-rounded person.

America is battling its way out to the top and promising that no child will be left behind. Behind this competition, we forget the purpose of education. Schools become business and factories where children come out as pale as ghosts with everything being structured “perfectly” and “properly” in their minds.

Somewhere in our battle and pursuit of meaningless papers, diplomas and money, we have lost the true meaning of learning.

During our insane worship to win the race, during our mad love to become number one, we forget that our schools are raising children that are racing to nowhere.

Africh Royale

Africh Royale

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