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Are Schools Destroying Creativity?

6 Nov


A friend of mine brought a video to my attention today. This is a video from a past TED conference in 2006 in which Sir Ken Robinson brings forth some compelling ideas and criticism about the worldwide education system on a whole. Now for some background, TED describes itself on its website as a nonprofit organization devoted to ideas worth spreading, and they have been putting on conferences around the world since 1984.

In this segment, Sir Ken Robinson, a former professor himself analyzes the education system, and questions the hierarchy of what is valued in our education systems. An interesting quote from Picaso sets the stage of thought; Picaso said “Every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist as we grow up”. Robinson figures that we have “educated people out of their creative cappacities”. In that we have trained our children through out their lives to be afraid of being wrong, and we have formed companies and governments based on this type of thinking. He makes sure to point out that being wrong isnt necessarily creativity, but that we must be prepared to be wrong in order to come up with new ideas.

This is a fascinating analogy, has our society laid out the format for being right and wrong? Have we grown out of our capability for being wrong? I think this is possible, we as human beings are not two the same, we are all different, we have different ideas and ways of thinking. So why is it that we all must follow the same education format, focusing only on the neck up and ultimately rewarding only those who think with just a particular side of their brains? Maybe we are placing too much emphasis on mathematics and science, whilst shunning the arts.

According to Robinsons comments, the education system as we know it has only come into place since the industrial revolution. For that is when we needed to educate people to help run this new world that we as humans were creating. Going along with that theory, one could agree that mass education has only really been happening even in the developed world for the last 30 or 40 years. Many of us still have grandparents growing up in the 20th century with limited education, for a variety of reasons. Most people would also agree that the 20th century saw some of the most profound technological advances in all of human existense, our quality of life changed the most during this century, from cars, airplanes, microwaves, electricity, space flight, and so on. Now in the last 30 years what have we accomplished? We developed the internet, an obvious advancement, but what else, our cars are slightly more efficient, the planes are faster, but have we really developed life altering technology that we saw in the first two thirds of the 20th century? Maybe there is a correlation between our recent widespread education system and the possible slowing down of human advancement. Is Ted right? Have we been educating our generations out of creativity?

I do ponder the idea of a possible education inflation problem, when everyone has a degree, then undergrad studies will be useless, the jobs will goto those kids with masters or PHD’s. But is it all worth it? Do we really need to be going to school for 20 years of our lives? Maybe the education system is training everybody to simply be average. Through our education system, is society moulding individuals into simply another gear that keeps the societal machine running smoothly? Maybe our system of education is crushing innovation, entrepreneurism and creativity, the very foundation of our advancement up to this point in time. Is it coincidense that the majority of innovators and millionaires in the world are either college dropouts or didnt attend post secondary studies at all? Were they sheilded from the creative killing forces of our education system?

What I do know, is that there is more to learning than school. Understanding the world we live in goes far beyond what any professor can tell you, or what you read in any textbook. I went through college with a particular quote by Mark Twain written across my binder, that quote read “I never let school interfere with my education”. Maybe Mark was right.

Maybe we need to rethink the concept of education and its intended purpose in society…

Watch the video here:

Visit the TED website here: