“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity.”
Sir Ken Robinson gave a TED talk recently where he criticized today’s schools for educating kids out of creativity. It is not a revolutionary thought that, as Robinson points out, the public education system since the 19th century has been shaped by the needs of industrialism and capitalism. Academic subjects are valued hierarchically according to what should best help one get a job.
I can relate – I went to a highly conservative academic high school, and was mocked for dropping sciences and maths in favour of art, languages and humanities. Despite my excellent averages, my teachers and peers (PEERS! Not parents. Other teenagers.) were concerned that I was closing doors. As a result of the undervaluation of creativity during my formative years, I spent most of my late teens and twenties trying to get out of my head and reconnect with my passions.
One of Robinson’s criticisms of our current education system is that in failing to nurture students’ creativity, we are teaching our students to be disembodied heads. “As children grow up we start to educate them from the waist up. and then we focus on their heads. And slightly to one side” (For more on encouraging right brain thinking, check out Dan Pink’s very readable book A Whole New Mind. Hopefully I’ll get around to blogging about it in a future post)
In an article published several months ago on The Huffington Post, Robinson takes a similar stance, arguing for a radical transformation of our education system. He writes:
I’m always struck by how many adults have no idea what their real talents are, or whether they have any at all. Many people just do what they do with no particular passion or commitment to it. I know others who genuinely love what they do; who would probably do it for free if they had to, and can’t imagine doing anything else. Understanding what makes the difference is essential for transforming education, business, and communities to meet the real challenges of the twenty-first century.
Robinson argues that the education system must realize that intelligence is dynamic, diverse, and distinct. In our post-industrial society, differentiated talents should be valued. Nurturing students’ diverse creative intelligences – we hope – will produce adults who are open to innovation and interdisciplinary cooperation. In his TED talk, Robinson doesn’t really suggest how to go about doing this, but his message is worthwhile. It is something I’ll think about as I begin my career as an educator – a career that I believe will help me finally get out of my head and utilize some of that innate creativity that has lain dormant for too long!