Education and Creativity

Last semester, we watched clips of one of the most viewed TED talks of all time. Sir Ken Robinson’s, “How schools kill creativity,” is an incredibly insightful talk that exposes many problems present not only in the educational system of the world, but also problems that are present in society surrounding education.

In the beginning of his speech, Robinson makes a joke about educators not being invited to dinner parties. He states that most people would be absolutely appalled if they needed to speak to an educator about their profession, however when asked about their own education, they cannot stop talking. This is the first problem present in society when it comes to education: people do not want to discuss it. Whether it is because they dreaded sitting in the classroom, or they have a job completely separate from their degree, very few people are willing to discuss education, even as a profession, let alone the system itself. This talk was given in 2006, almost ten years ago, and the problems Sir Robinson discusses in his talk are still present today. This video has gotten an immense amount of views, and yet the problem it addresses still persists today. Why is that? It is because people have no desire to discuss education outside of their own educational history. Education is an incredibly future-oriented enterprise, always seeking ways to better prepare students for the ever-changing global community. The students sitting in the classroom, who face the problems of education every day, do not have the influence or stature to make real changes. In order for these problems to be solved, conversation must take place among those with the power to make the necessary changes. People need to look past their own time in school, and start thinking about the billions of children that will go through school in the future.

The overarching theme of Robinson’s talk is that education kills children’s capacity for creativity. His most salient example is the story he tells of Gillian Lynne, the choreographer of the Broadway hits Cats and The Phantom of the Opera. In an interview, Lynne told Robinson that, while in grade school, her teachers contacted her parents about the possibility of Lynne having a learning disability. Her parents took her to a specialist, and after discussing Lynne’s problems in school, the doctor left the room to speak to Lynne’s mother. Rather than say Lynne needed to settle down in class and prescribe her medication, the doctor turned on the radio. Immediately, Lynne got up and started dancing. The doctor advised her enrollment in a dancing school, and the rest is history. What this doctor did is what education needs to do for students. Particularly since the implementation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, certain academic skills have been highlighted as more important than others. For example, math is more important than music, and chemistry is more important than art. The current educational system works to mold students into certain careers that are currently thought of as valuable to society. What the system does not do is foster the growth of each individual student’s interests. Robinson stated this, saying that education does not teach students as whole individuals, rather it squanders certain interests, and for those that are skilled in these “less important” subjects, makes them feel unintelligent. By putting more emphasis on certain subjects, and casually telling students that they will never get a job in art or music, schools kill the creative tendencies of many young children. Six year olds drawing fantastic lands of mystery are told to draw an animal they saw at the zoo. Children with incredible musical talent are told to put down the violin and pick up the protractor. A myriad of studies have been conducted showing the incredible connections between intelligence and creative capacity. With all of this data supporting the continuation of music and arts programs, it is hard to believe that a lot of schools across the United States are cutting funding to these programs.

The overarching opinion of those interested in the betterment of education is that schools should help children realize their own potential, and help them succeed by pursuing their own interests. If education’s focus does not shift to educating the student as a whole, it will be failing billions of our world’s youth in the future.

Here’s the link to the TED Talk:

2 thoughts on “Education and Creativity

  1. Emma Bell Schwendeman

    I have never seen this TED talk before but I definitely will sometime this week. While I get what the standards are trying to do and have worked alright so far, I do think that somewhere along the way that we lose a little bit of creativity in the process. It really is unfortunate because for some kids, the creative classes like band, choir, art and more provide an outlet for them or help them get by through their day in class. Take my brother for instance! He is a junior in high school who has a 4.0, is involved in National Honors Society, and helps out at the local science center downtown. He does all these amazing academic outlets, but he would not be able, I believe, to do so without the creative outlets he has. He is involved in marching band, as well as recently joined as a member of the indie band Spirit of the Bear (whose music is on Itunes by the way!). The creative energy acts as an outlet for him as well as help him in classes like English or even Science, that involves a more critical mindset. Hopefully, education reformers see soon the value of creative outlets. Great last civics issue blog! I have enjoyed getting to understand these issues further.

  2. Makenzie A Coduti

    I’ve also watched his TED Talk and I loved it. I do think that the standards imposed by recent education reform do kill creativity. It bothers me that students are confined in a little box of what their education should be instead of asking them what they want it to be. I’ve thought a lot about how creativity can be incorporated better in the classroom. Personally, I’ve strived throughout the end of my high school career to try and make my projects as strange and out of the box as possible. I’ve found this to be more enjoyable and other students have told me they’ve learned more from it. I think there is a lot of potential in taking risks with how we educate people and letting them decide what is best for their particular learning style.

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