Do Schools Kill Creativity

Reference: Subject: Education

You may read the transcript here.

Here are the main points from this talk (Jun 2006):

(1) There is increasing display of creativity in the society. No idea how this may play out.

(2) Education is one of those things that goes deep with people. We have a huge vested interest in it, partly because it’s education that’s meant to take us into this future that we can’t grasp.

(3) Children have extraordinary capacities for innovation. We squander them pretty ruthlessly. Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.

(4) If one is not prepared to be wrong, one will never come up with anything original. Kids are not frightened of being wrong. They will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. But, by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity.

(5) We stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities. It need not be this way.

(6) Every education system seems to have the same hierarchy of subjects. At the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and the bottom are the arts. There’s a hierarchy within the arts. Art and music are normally given a higher status in schools than drama and dance. As children grow up, we start to educate them progressively from the waist up. And then we focus on their heads, and slightly to one side. It need not be this way.

(7) The whole purpose of public education throughout the world seems to be to produce people who live in their head, and slightly to one side. We shouldn’t hold them up as the high-water mark of all human achievement.

(8) Our education system is predicated on the idea of academic ability. The whole system was invented to meet the needs of industrialism. So the hierarchy is rooted on two ideas.

  • The most useful subjects are those that provide us with a job.
  • Academic ability is the measure of intelligence.

(9) Today, due to technology and its transformation effect on work, degrees aren’t worth anything. You need an MA where the previous job required a BA, and now you need a PhD for the other. The whole structure of education is shifting beneath our feet. We need to radically rethink our view of intelligence.

(10) We know three things about intelligence:

  • Intelligence is diverse. We think about the world in all the ways that we experience it.
  • Intelligence is dynamic and interactive. Creativity comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.
  • Intelligence is distinct.

(11) Our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of the richness of human capacity. Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth: for a particular commodity. And for the future, it won’t serve us. We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we’re educating our children.

(12) The only way we’ll avert some of the dreadful scenarios of future is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are and seeing our children for the hope that they are. Our task is to educate our children’s whole being, so they can face this future. We may not see this future, but they will. And our job is to help them make something of it.


Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
%d bloggers like this: