Do schools kill creativity?
What do you think? Do schools kill creativity?
Since having to contend with school closures back in lockdown, I wonder whether homeschooling kills creativity. In September 2020, nearly 9 million children returned to school after spending five months at home. Many were waiting with eager anticipation. Others were feeling nervous about the prospect.
How did your children feel about returning to school?
How did you feel about it?
‘Do schools kill creativity?’ is the title of the most widely watched Ted Talk ever! It was back in 2006 when Ken Robinson’s talk helped kickstart Ted Talks into the entity it is today. His contention was (and probably still is) that ‘creativity is as important as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.’
He points out that children are not afraid to be wrong, unlike adults. Being wrong is vital to creativity because if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original!
Wow! I know – powerful words. He observes that by the time we become adults, we lose the capacity to be wrong. Our workplaces don’t want us to make mistakes, and we get educated on creativity.
“Picasso once said this; he said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.”
Intelligence is broad and dynamic
Intelligence is not merely academic ability, although society has built our education system around it. Far too many children grow up believing they are not bright because they are not bookish, which isn’t true.
Ken tells us that we know three things about intelligence:
- It is diverse
- It is dynamic
- It is distinct
People think about the world in the ways they experience it. We think visually, in sound and kinesthetically. We believe in abstract terms, and we contemplate during movement. When children can’t sit still in a classroom, your response will influence what they do with their lives. You could say they have ADHD and give them medication. You could say that they need to move to think and help them learn to dance.
Gillian Lynne is one of the most successful choreographers in the world. She did Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Cats and Phantom of the Opera. When she was at school, teachers told her she had a learning disorder because she couldn’t sit still. It was back in the 1930s, before ADHD was invented.
Her mum took her to see a doctor who listened carefully and curiously. In their brief time together, he discovered something. He turned on the radio, and she began to move and dance, not unusual for a child. It was at this point he changed the course of her life. He told her mother: Gillian isn’t sick; she is a dancer. Take her to dance school. And that is just what her mother did.
“I can’t tell you how wonderful it was”, she said. “It was full of people like me – people who couldn’t sit still and had to move to think.” Gillian later graduated from the Royal School of ballet, and she has been responsible for some of the most successful musical theatre productions in history.
How many children have missed out on a decent education because the teachers or the system didn’t or couldn’t find a way to support the child’s creativity? Did it happen to you? Were your talents respected and valued?
Sadly, Ken Robinson died in 2020. I hadn’t known about him, but I had read about his ideas. He has written many successful books, one of which I intend to read next month. It’s called The Element: How finding your passion changes everything.
Ken has a beautiful website full of fascinating stories, articles and interviews. I intend to explore his work and soak up more of what he discovered.
His work on creativity reminds me of just how important it is to be curious. It guides us to understand other people and ourselves. It is the opposite of uncompromising certainty. It is the willingness to ask yourself: Am I prepared to be wrong?