“Schools Kill Creativity”

So over the last few months, I’ve had a lot of great discussions with my good friend Jo-z that have been inspired from TED Talks that he’s watched.  And it wasn’t until last week that I had the epiphany that TED Talks serve as a prime  example of people trying to instigate change and break the norm.  As a result, I will be starting a monthly series of TED posts.

January’s TED Talk is  “Schools Kill Creativity” by Ken Robinson.
If I were to describe this talk in one word, I’d say it was brilliant and hilarious.  That’s right.  I had to use two because the awesomeness of this talk simply could not be contained in one word.   If you have twenty minutes for some entertaining enlightenment on our education system, please watch the video below before proceeding.

(For those who think that they don’t have time to watch this, I hope that I’ll be able to convince you to take the time to do so after you read this post.)

Robinson brings up so many excellent points that I’m pretty sure I could write a whole research paper without blinking an eye.  For the sake of time and your entertainment, let’s stick to my favorite ones.  Before I get into my favorite points however, I want to start by clarifying that Ken Robinson defines creativity as “the process of generating original ideas that have value.”  That being said, let’s move on to my top three highlights.

#1. “By the time they [children] grow into adults, most kids have lost that capacity [to be creative].  They are afraid of being wrong.”
When I analyze my own history and think about the impact the education system has had on my own growth, this point hits straight home.  It’s not so much that we should be rewarding mistakes, but schools have conditioned people to be afraid of making a mistake. Now I know that there are those who are immune to this fear, and there are two types of people who fall into this category: “average” students and future researchers.  The sad thing is that some of our brightest and most successful entrepreneurs and business people tend to come from these stereotyped “average” students.  And a lot of times, it is because of their tenacity and willingness to be wrong and try again that they can surpass the masses.  But then again, both the budding entrepreneur and future researchers are a small portion of the population.  So what about everyone else?

#2. “…Another person would have put her on medication and told her to calm down.”
This quote comes from the story of famous choreographer X and how she discovered her talent.  I would paraphrase the story for you, but it just doesn’t do justice to how Robinson tells it.  In regards to the meaning of this statement however, I think it’s a pity that so many people resort to typical methods to deal with every problem.  The prime example of this is ADHD.  I get it, some kids cannot seem to sit still.  But seriously though, society’s answer of putting them on medication just because they don’t fit properly into society’s little box is absolutely absurd.

#3. “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
The coup de grace of the entire talk for me is this statement.  It’s further reinforcement to the notion that one cannot be afraid to fail and make mistakes.  We try, and we fail, but then we try again.  If we are constantly afraid of being wrong or judged by others, we will always be confined to the constraints of our own fears.  And let’s not the forget that those fears may be completely irrational and have no grounds at all.  No one will judge you as harshly as you will end up judging yourself. So stop worrying about being wrong, and get going on moving forward in life.

Again, I want to re-emphasize that this is a TED Talk that you would definitely find fascinating since it touches on an education system that has not only impacted our lives, but the future generation as well.  Here’s to embracing mistakes so that we can create something original. Cheers.


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7 responses to ““Schools Kill Creativity””

  1. Melanie says :

    Thanks so much for the post!

    I totally agree with you – I’ve been thinking a lot about education lately and just started reading a book on Montessori education. It gives examples of dozens of studies on child and adult psychology of how people (especially kids) learn. A few main points say the same thing you do; the whole school system built on rewards is incredibly negative and kids become less interested/engaged over time, and are less creative.

    I’ll definitely check out the talk! (And if you’re interested in the book, it’s called Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius by Angeline Stoll Lillard).

  2. Jo-z Schwartz says :

    Thanks for the shout out, I too enjoy our discussions.
    This TED talk, is one of my favorites for sure.
    There was another interesting story I heard from Professor Michael Roberto: He spoke of a gradeschool teacher rewarding the kid who made the most mistakes for a given week in order to encourage kids to speak up an not worry about being wrong. The catch is that one cannot make the same mistake twice. Ive always thought that was a cool concept.

  3. butterflyxwings says :

    I agree about ADHD. I don’t think that there’s anything “wrong” with someone who is diagnosed with it. It’s just another label that society has come up with. Adam Levine of Maroon 5 supposedly has it, but just look at him. He’s normal. There’s nothing wrong with him! He’s a musician. Look how his creativity has brought him so far. I think artsy fartsy types are labeled with ADD/ADHD the most because creative types are always coming up with new ideas that seem “weird” or “strange.” And people are afraid of the foreign. I could be completely wrong, but that’s why I don’t think anyone should be taking any medication to be “normal” like everyone else. ADHD is not legit in my eyes.

    • BreakingNorms says :

      Hear hear! I mean as always, there are exceptions to the rule. So MAYBE there are some people who truly can’t focus on anything. I’d definitely believe that. But the numbers that we’re seeing with kids being diagnosed with ADHD is ridiculous.

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