Today I watched Do schools kill creativity? It’s a great Ted talk by educator Sir Ken Robinson about the nature of education…or even more so about the nature of children. Robinson believes that all children are naturally creative and original, and that the exceptionally bright children wouldn’t be so exceptional if we didn’t spend so much time drilling the creativity our of all the others. Three ways we do this are:
- expecting them all to behave the same way in the class room, and almost always diagnosing difference as a condition to be medicated and ‘normalized’.
- instilling a huge fear of making mistakes, which makes creative originality almost impossible, because one has to be willing to risk being wrong in order to do something new.
- focussing so heavily on the academic areas of math and literacy to the exclusion of other areas like dance, drama, music, etc.
He told an anecdote of a little girl in the thirties who couldn’t sit still in class. She was always fidgeting. Her mother was called in to discuss her trouble at school. After speaking with her and her mother, the teacher, or perhaps it was the principle, asked the mother to step out of the room for a moment with him. Before leaving he switched on the radio. They looked at the little girl through the glass window in the wall. She immediately was on her feet and moving to the beat.
Your little girl isn’t learning impared. She’s a dancer. Please take her to a dance school.
That was the best advice the mother ever had. Her daughter flourished at the Royal Academy of Ballet, and went on to make millions producing shows like “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera.”
And yet we tell kids…don’t bother with music or dance…you can’t make a living at that. Instead we have said for so long, “Be smart and get a degree. Then you’ll be guaranteed a job.” Sir Robinson says we have created a kind of academic inflation, where degrees have become so common that they mean almost nothing, and now a PHD is required for jobs that used to only need a bachelor’s degree. He joked that much as he likes university professors, having previously been one himself, he doesn’t think we are all meant to be professors!
I won’t give away the whole talk…about educating the whole person and not just the head…but you should really watch it because besides being interesting, it is also funny. Being British, Sir Robinson has that fantastic dry sense of humour, and I kept laughing so hard I woke up the baby sleeping on my lap!
The whole talk made me feel that we need to consciously redefine our view of educating children…that ideas like the blank slate to be filled with ideas, or the small uncultured creature to be civilized are so far off. Perhaps a better definition of kids would be small, brilliant humans, who are unafraid to share their brilliance with others, and with the world. Let’s encourage our kids to keep burning brightly with all their wild and crazy ideas and funny inventions so they that don’t fall into becoming typical adults: large dim humans who are so afraid of making a mistake or displeasing others that they won’t try anything different or new, cause better safe than sorry!