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Do Schools Kill Creativity? January 31, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Food for Thought, Teaching.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Do you have 18 minutes?  That’s how long the speakers at TED  “Ideas Worth Sharing” have to give the talk of their lives. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) was started in 1984 to bring together the best minds in these fields, but has since expanded its vision.  I first viewed this link on The Critical Thinker, which you’ll find on my blogroll (Thanks Mark!).

This 18-minute talk by Sir Ken Robinson is a joy to watch.  It’s a laugh out loud stand-up comedy routine that raises serious questions about how we educate children.  Okay, I don’t really believe that all those kids with ADHD ricocheting around classrooms will grow up to be dancers, but I could be wrong.  Actually, I’d love to be wrong.  

I teach at a school where there’s an “emphasis on the arts” (though no funding for them).  Yet ultimately, it all comes down to The Test and that ever elusive API score.  I wouldn’t say I’m drowning in data, but my new computer password is “Data Hari.”  

As educators,  we’re always looking for answers when sometimes what we need to do is stop and rethink the questions.  Ken Robinson raises some very interesting ones.  Do you have 18 minutes?

To view some of the other amazing people who’ve spoken at TED, click on this link.    TED


1. jameshogg - February 1, 2009

I would go so far as to say schools murder creativity.

If somebody told you you were going to spend at least 12 years learning how learning is hard, difficult and what you absolutely have to do if you are to be any worthy of this world (and yourself), how would you react?

Well, that’s what we all do. Anybody who has been to school will sigh and turn blue at the mere mentioning of the word ‘learning’ for a very good reason. They will think ‘detention’, ‘bullying’ and ‘exams exams exams’ if they even try and open a book in the future.

Now there is a fine line between allowing a degree of self-responsibility for one’s behaviour and conditioning the poor kid’s mind into a self-fulfiling rut. Education, in my view, is the destroying of lives before they’ve even been lived.

I don’t know what to do if I ever have kids of my own… I can’t see how I would say to them ‘erm… there is this thing called school, and, erm, it really really sucks for learning about stuff because it makes you think that studying is difficult, but, erm,….. you gotta go there for at least 12 years.’ Dammit. That scares me.

The world’s gotta reconsider their general attitude on this matter… education today is counter-productive on a psychological level, and there aren’t many who can disagree with that.


2. Mark T. Market - February 1, 2009

Ken Robinson makes an interesting point about how public schools, as an offshoot of the industrial revolution–have a kind of education that is canned, mass-produced, and precisely for the requirements of such a society. Even the way educational reform is done has unmistakable marks of industrial-age thinking (e.g. will it benefit or is applicable to most students).

This emphasis on the rule rather than the exception is part of the reason that schools are stifling independent creative thought. To be fair though, I haven’t read anywhere that the school system was designed with the intention to destroy creative thinking–so for now I can take it as an unintended inadvertent consequence.

Pretty much everything that came from the industrial age have the same story: we have benefits to society, but unintended, inadvertent consequences. (e.g. factories produce goods, but pollute the environment, motorized agriculture made food more accessible, but contributed to overpopulation, etc.).

The insight however is that some existing structures have already been built to deal with some unintended consequences — there’s a global awareness on population, environment, but not for education (basic literacy, yes–but not for creativity).


3. lilikaofthelake - February 2, 2009

In the end (and the beginning really) it all comes down to the teacher. One good or not teacher can make or break a child. The squared factor though is the parent(s). If you have an attentive, creative, caring parent you can rule the world (or classroom).
Really after it is all said and done – its all about the mother anyway, where fault lies.

Waldorf schools and Montessori schools focus on creativity. Still even the worst of public schools has the potential to be equally as inspirational and to build great citizens and thinkers. I mean that is what we are after isn’t it? Greater thinkers, children that will grow up and take us to the next level? Or are these just huge daycare facilities where we feed the bodies but not the minds and souls? PTOs/PTAs all over the world try hard to bring added value to the public schools – there is ever increasing awarness on how this positively effects outcome for the schools. And what about Homeschooling on the rise and with mixed outcomes. Most of the National Spelling bee champs of late have been homeschooled.

I do not think we can lay the lack of creativity and social deterioration at the feet of public schools. There is a bigger issue and it begins and ends at home with the parent – who is after all – the CEO of the family and the child’s first teacher.


4. moxey - February 5, 2009

Fascinating. As the parent of a child who is very creative, it’s a fine line to walk. Yes of course my child needs math and science and language, but my child also needs to be able to pursue the true talents that lie within, even if they are not in the realm of math or science or language.

I too was steered toward an education that would “land me a job” — I wanted to write and that’s where my talent was, so I majored in English in college and went so far as to spend a semester exploring the teaching program at my university. Turns out, that’s not my cup of tea. So I just got a degree but no teaching certification, and eventually found a job at which I could be productive. And here I am out of school 20+ years and at loose ends about what to do with myself when I grow up.

I am encouraging my child to learn more about those talents that aren’t as “valued” by the educational system — because like a true parent, I want more for my kid than what I had.


5. Jax - February 14, 2009

to parents worrying about schools – there is an option called home education. (Or home schooling if you’re US rather than UK 🙂 )


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