My theme for the Blogging from A to Z challenge is Creativity. Today I discuss the effect of education on creativity.
Does education—and I’m talking traditional education—help or hamper creativity?
“How Schools Kill Creativity”
Ken Robinson–writer, researcher, adviser, teacher and speaker—has been involved in many projects related to education and creativity, including leading a 1998 British advisory committee that studied the significance of creativity in education and in the economy. For this work, he was knighted in 2003.
He sums up what he works toward in one statement: “To transform the culture of education and organizations with a richer conception of human creativity and intelligence.”
In a widely watched 2006 TED talk entitled “How Schools Kill Creativity,” Robinson argues that “we are educating people out of their creativity.” He believes the current methods of education make people good workers, but not creative thinkers. He says students who may appear restless and distracted are ignored or stigmatized instead of having their energy and curiosity directed toward creativity.
TED.com offers these other quotes from Robinson’s talk:
“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
“All kids have tremendous talents — and we squander them pretty ruthlessly.”
“Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”
“Schools are Necessary for a Creative Society”
Keith Sawyer, a professor of Educational Innovations at the University of North Carolina, wrote a 2012 article for the Huffington Post entitled, “Schools that Foster Creativity.” Inspired by Ken Robinson’s TED talk, Sawyer agrees that “creativity should be as important in education as literacy.” And he believes we need schools in order to have a creative society.
He says creativity takes many hours of hard work and dedication, and requires a large investment in learning and expertise. He says, “The path to the creative society of the future goes straight through the classroom. But not the memorize-and-regurgitate classrooms we have today — instead, classrooms that give students a deeper understanding of the material.”
Further, he says creativity doesn’t come with a “sudden flash of insight.” Instead, it’s a build-up of many small ideas, and the right type of education can teach students how to be creative rather than blocking creativity.
It seems both are arguing for a new way to teach, new classroom methods to encourage creativity instead of stifling it.
What do you think? Does education hamper or hurt creativity? Do we need to change the way we currently teach students in order to encourage their creativity? Is creativity important for our society and economy?
For me real creativity came after the K-12 education, so I don’t know if the school system makes a huge difference. I think I had to live life in order to write about it. But, yeah, encouraging creativity early on is important. Any little bit helps.
Thanks for your comment, Silvia. It’s an interesting topic to consider!
Hi, I found your post very relevant. I idolise Sir Ken Robinson and till I heard his TED talk I never thought so intensely about creativity and efforts to encourage them. A lot has to change in the way the current education system is structured. A large part of the responsibility rests on families itself to keep the creativity and natural curiosity bug alive in our children.
Thanks for reading and for your comment, Rama. I’d never heard of Robinson until I did research for this post. Yes, it’s true, the parents must be involved in nurturing their childrens’ creativity. My mother is a life-long artist, and she instilled that love of creativity in all her kids!
It’s a little-known fact that our modern education system (going back more than a century, by the way) is DESIGNED to produce good workers instead of creative thinkers. The argument was that art and culture would belong to the higher classes who’d had private tutors as children, and everyone else just needed to know how to follow instructions and do — and think — as they’re told. (I did teach high school for a little while, by the way — art, of all things — so I’m not clueless about how the education system in the US works.)
I believe that people need to be educated in order to be creative; no ne can imagine something that is totally unconnected to things they already know, and trying to be creative without knowing anything is like trying to exhale without inhaling first; nothing comes out. On the other hand, the education system’s emphasis on memorizing facts produces an environment in which young people are afraid to think for themselves, and afraid to “make stuff up” or risk making a mistake while trying a new idea because they’ve been taught that that’s wrong.
Thomas, very eloquent comment. Thank you so much!
I think our current education system CAN be used to encourage and foster creativity–IF it is used correctly. Standardized test requirements don’t leave teachers a lot of flexibility to encourage creativity; they mainly need to teach to tests.
Parents, on the other hand, have more opportunity to encourage creativity in their children because they aren’t required to test their children on it. Parents can give their children toys that encourage imaginative play (building blocks, dress-up clothes, art supplies, etc) versus toys that don’t require much imagination (toys that talk versus ones that require children to do the talking, most electronic “toys,” etc). Also, exposing children to others’ creativity is a great way to encourage children to develop their own. Let them read good books (and start by reading good books to them), expose them to quality music, take them to museums and art exhibits, etc.
This was an incredibly thought-provoking post! Thank you. 🙂
Jaimie, thank you so much for this comment. I totally agree with your first paragraph, and you give some wonderful examples how parents can encourage their children’s creativity. I appreciate you reading and commenting!