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Conventional Schooling Undermines Creativity

by Jacqueline Stoughton

Today’s children go to school not only to learn all the basics in math, English, science and history that have been instilled in students brains for generations, but also to explore all that there is to learn and experience all while demonstrating their creative abilities and discovering themselves.

Unfortunately, a lot of their creative abilities are being undermined by the modern public schooling system. Young adults go onto universities to build up specific skill areas because they genuinely enjoy what they’re studying but because this is what they have to do in order to make a living in the world we live in.

Sir Ken Robinson, educator and author of Out of Our Minds: How to be Creative, explains in his 2006 TED Talk, How Schools Kill Creativity, that all kids have tremendous talents, and we squander them ruthlessly.

“I have an interest in education, everyone has an interest in education. It’s education that’s supposed to take us into the future we can’t grasp. The unpredictability is extraordinary,” said Robinson. “Children’s capacity for innovation is amazing. We stigmatize mistakes, and we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make.”

According to Robinson, if you’re prepared not to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. This is an extremely valuable ability that kids tend to lose capacity and understanding of by the time they reach adulthood.

Robinson describes how the worlds education system is essentially identical. All are based off of a common hierarchy of learning. Math and language is top tier, followed by humanities followed by the arts. Within the arts is also it’s own hierarchical system of learning. Most important is art and music, followed by drama then dance at the bottom.

“Our education system is predicated on the idea of academic ability. You were probably steered benignly away from things at school when you were a kid, things you liked, on the grounds that you would never get a job doing that,” said Robinson. “Benign advice – now, profoundly mistaken. The whole world is engulfed in a revolution.”

Intelligence has three elements, says Robinson. It’s dynamic, making it interactive. We never have the same conversations with the same people, it’s always changing, each interaction we have is always unique. It’s distinct and finally intelligence is diverse.

“We think visually, we think in sound, we think kinesthetically, we think in abstract terms, we think in movement,” said Robinson.

In Connecticut public schools teaching grades K-12, teachers are now not only expected but also required to teach their lessons in accordance with the common core standards.

These standards require students to be able to produce work that is research and evidence based, clear, understandable and consistent, aligned with college and career expectations and is based on rigorous content and the application of knowledge through higher-order thinking skills.

The Connecticut common core standards are expected to be built upon the strengths and lessons of current state standards and informed by other top-performing countries to prepare all students for success in our global economy and society, according to the corestandards.org

Essentially, students are now expected to learn a certain, pre-approved way. All other ways of thinking not approved by the Connecticut common core standards is considered wrong.

“Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status,” said Robinson. “I believe this passionately; that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out of it.”

Lauren Andreoli, CCSU education major explains that because modern school systems are more structured, it leaves little room for the arts.  She also says that the lack of creativity in the curriculum depends on the teacher.  If you have a teacher whose been teaching for 30 plus years, they’ll tend to be set in their ways more so than the new teacher who is required and expected to follow the assigned curriculum.

“They should make room for more opportunity to be creative by bringing the fun factor back to school.  Kids need time to be free, less serious,” said Andreoli.

“What TED celebrates is the gift of the human imagination. We have to be careful now that we use this gift wisely,” said Robinson. “Out task is to educate their whole being, so they can face this future. We may not see this future, but they will and out job is to help them make something of it.”