Saturday, February 2, 2008

School: The Creativity Stifler

This is an old TED talk, but Ken Robinson drives home a good point. Go watch.

Schools are stifling creativity, with their emphasis on getting things right and not questioning the status quo. With reducing the presence of the arts and music in the curriculum due to budget constraints.

At a point in our history, we are outsourcing every "repetitive task" we can think of in the business world. All in the name of cutting costs and speeding processes that make companies leaner and more responsive.

But to preserve our nation's status, the corollary should be that instead of these repetitive tasks, we should be fully engaged in higher level thoughts.

So we should spend our time fostering activities that train our citizens to think creatively and expansively - don't you think?

"Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value."
Sir Ken Robinson

Why, then are schools still largely focused on the un-original aspects of learning?

While I'm all about increasing literacy, which is table stakes in my opinion, perhaps we should be taking a good look at arts programs in the public schools, as well.

Besides discipline, and appreciation for the arts in general, these programs tap into the portion of the mind that isn't focused on rote memorization, but generating great ideas.


Kitty said...

Capitalist country that it is, I'm sure the schools don't want to mislead kids into thinking they should literally be artists. Rather, they want to train young entrepreneurs.

There's conformity in the art world, too. Have a bunch of kids draw and the ones who don't draw literally from life will be criticized.

The thing about art is that it can be so personal. It takes a very skilled teacher to criticize work without offending.

Art to me is expression, while the capitalist tendency is not expression at all. Art is for art's sake. There's no purpose behind it beyond self-expression and enjoyment. Entreprenurialism, on the other hand, is original thought.

The capitalist solution would be to foster debate teams and science fairs.

Sorry for the cynical attitude...I get frustrated with the values of this world at times!

Spandrel Studios said...

Hey, no need to apologize, Kitty - these are all great points!

Schools need to know that just because they're including art and music in the curriculum in a valuable way doesn't have to mean they're training kids to pursue the arts as a profession. Rather, it adds to their creative problem-solving and analytical skills.

Debate teams and science fairs are absolutely valuable. I'm just saying that if we push all these other things to the exclusion of the arts, we're going to have less-inventive scientists, less skilled debaters, and entrepreneurs who might be less likely to go out on a limb and invent the next big thing.

I realize it's a balancing act between values and budget, and with parents wanting their kids to be able to compete, the schools have to put their money where they can (theoretically, at least) get the most bang for the buck. They need to ensure their students are prepared for whatever is next - be that college, the work world, whatever. And keep parents happy while they're at it.

It's no small task; year after year, educators are asked to do a tremendous amount with ever-shrinking resources. But I think the arts need to be granted equal status, as more than a nice-to-have. I'd argue that the benefits of participating in those creative activities reveal themselves in a capitalist society as serial entrepreneurialism, or scientific breakthroughs, or skilled public speaking.