Thursday, December 12, 2013

Creativity Is Vital Element in Education

By Kiera Farley

An English educator maintains that creativity is as important as the pillars of public education. He argues that strictly left-brain thinking education systems suppress creativity in children. Children are born creative and education systems are brainwashing them with their strict learning structures.

Sir Kenneth Robinson is an English author, speaker, and educator. Robinson focuses on two main ideas; first, we’re all born with deep natural capacities for creativity and systems of mass education tend to suppress them. Second, it is important that we cultivate these capacities and rethink the dominant approaches to education. He demonstrated that children are our hope for the future, and they are born creative.

In a TED Conference talk that has drawn a large number of viewers on Youtube, he argued that society is "educating the creativity out of children." He said that students were rewarded for academic talents, but not for talents in more creative areas, such as music and arts. Intelligence isn't just being good at math and science; it's being able to use the dynamic ability of the entire mind, being creative and not just logical.  He goes on to give a few examples of how kids are not afraid of taking chances even if they are wrong. He says "if you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never be able to come up with anything original." By the time kids become adults, they lose that capacity. This is something that's bred in the corporate world and now taking form in educational systems.

"All kids have tremendous talents and we squander them pretty ruthlessly," says Robinson. The squandering comes from the hierarchy of our outdated education establishments worldwide with math and languages holding a spot at the top, followed by all humanistics, leaving the arts at the bottom. There is even a hierarchy among the arts, according to Robinson, music and painting are more valued than drama and dance in schools.

"Children are born artists"

Robinson uses a quote from Picasso who once said "All children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up"--which is to say, kids do not grow into creativity, but grow out of it, or rather are educated out of it. Robinson makes a point that our own creativity has no value - so it is tossed aside as we get older, so much that we grow out of it.

Robinson gives a great case in point by using Gillian Lynne as an example. Gillian Lynne is a choreographer best known for her work in Cats and Phantom of the Opera. During an interview with her, Robinson asked how she came to be a dancer. Lynne explained that as a child, her school believed she had a learning disorder because she couldn’t sit still, she was always fidgeting. So she was taken to the doctor and after hearing all of the problems she was having, the doctor took her mother outside the room and turned on the radio for Gillian as they left. After they left, Gillian began to dance and the doctor told her mother to look. The doctor explained, “Gillian isn’t sick, she’s a dancer, take her to a dancing school.” 

So Gillian was brought to a dancing school and felt so happy. She grew up to eventually own her own dance company, be responsible for some of the most successful musical productions in history, bring pleasure to millions, and become a multimillionaire, Robinson noted. Had she gone to a different doctor, he added, perhaps she might have been put on medication and told to calm down.

He finishes with saying “we need to rethink the fundamentals principles in which we’re educating our children.”

Industrial age schools outmoded

The United States ranked 17th in an assessment of education systems in 50 countries, according to a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The problem with American education systems is that they are an outdated relic of the early 20th century, where the object was to train a child to have a mindset and skills required to work in a factory job long hours of the day, as at that time when mandatory public schools were instituted, that was the main expectation of children. As the industrial age faded and the US entered the era of high tech private sector jobs, the education system failed to reflect that change, and they’re still training us to have the mindset for an industrial job, not a job in today’s job market. The education systems we have are essentially preparing our youth for jobs that do not exist anymore.

The methods that the US education systems use are detrimental to the education of our country’s youth. Children are brainwashed to believe that their intelligence is based on the scores they receive on standardized tests. Every individual learns in different ways; their abilities should not be determined solely on the marks they receive with testing. Because of this education system, students are more focused on receiving good grades than on discovery of new ways of thinking. Children are losing their creativity based on these education structures.

A 2002 study at Michigan University found that 80% of students surveyed based their self-worth on academic performance. This leaves students who are more creative in their learning techniques to believe that they are failures. It needs to be understood that some people are born with creativity as their most productive asset.  When schools take away opportunities to be creative, they are taking away a student’s opportunity to succeed.

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Kiera Farley is a junior at St. Thomas Aquinas College majoring in Communication Arts.

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