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Teaching creativity: Do schools today kill creativity?

Sir Ken Robinson, an education guru, has given an entertaining, yet moving talk at TED conference last year. Reexamining the nature of our education system, Ken focuses on the role of creativity in schools.

My contention is that creativity now is as important, in education, as literacy. And we should treat it with the same status.

Picasso once said that “all people are born artists, and the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.” Ken argues that if you are not prepared to be wrong – you will never come up with anything original. And that by the time kids turn into adults, they loose (or rather are taught out of) their creative capacity. Schools teach them to be frightened of being wrong.

The fascinating 20 minute video is a must see for every parent, teacher, and obviously students interested in their own education.

The highlight of the talk, and the part I present up for the discussion is available as a textcast below.

Our education system is predicated on the idea of academic ability, and there’s a reason. The whole system was invented around the world (there were no public systems of education before the 19th century), they all came into being to meet the needs of industrialism. So the hierarchy is risen on two ideas.

Number 1: that the most useful subjects for work are at the top. So you would probably stay banally away from things at school when you were a kid, things you liked, on the grounds that you will never get a job doing that.

Don’t do music, you wouldn’t be a musician. Don’t do art, you wouldn’t be an artist.

Number 2: academic ability, which really came to dominate our view of intelligence, because the universities designed the system in their image. If you think of it, the whole system of public education, around the world, is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly tallanted, brilliant, creative people think they are not. Because the thing they were good at, at school, wasn’t valued. And I don’t think we can afford to go on this way.

In the next 30 years, according to UNESCO, more people world wide will be graduating through education since the beginning of history. Suddenly the degrees are not worth anything.

Think about it – do you draw as much as you used to as a kid? Why not?

Has the educational system matched your childhood dreams and expectations, or were you forced to study mainly the subjects you were not interested in?

I suppose the most important point is that obtaining a cookie-cutter degree no longer makes you unique – one needs to be creative and original to stand out from the growing groups of this “academic inflation”. Think about what makes you unique from others in your graduating class, and if you can offer something truly original.

Now excuse me while I go and draw something creative. And I don’t care how badly anyone thinks of that.

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  1. Posted by karen gleitz | April 12, 2007, 4:39 pm

    I feel like in my teaching career I have bent the rules enough to stimulate all the students in the school. In spite of the niche I have occupied (kindergarten teacher, ECE, social studies) I have taken on several other hats including drama, newspaper, yearbook, special programs, etc. Thhis has helped me connect with the entire school and kept me coming back year after year. Once you’ve directed “Star Trek – Trouble with Tribbles,” Charlie Brown Christmas…” you know you’ve advanced those kids artistically. If I’ve done nothing else in my life I’ve given kids the opportunity to get up on stage in front of an audience and not be intimidated. I think this will carry them far. kg

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