I came across this highly entertaining 2006 TED talk by Ken Robinson, which still has some powerful insights on how creativity is approached in the education system and is just as relevant today as it was six years ago when he presented this subject.
So much pressure is placed on kids these days to excel. Schools have become exponentially more selective than when I was applying. High school seniors today are applying to eight and ten schools. In the mid 1970s I (foolishly enough) applied to only and was accepted by exactly one university. I never heard of Advance Placement or International Baccalaureate courses back then. If I had to go through high school today I would surely flunk out. I know all of this because my son is eighteen and finishing up his senior year in high school and will be starting college in the fall.
I urge you to watch Ken Robinson’s talk embedded above because I think his views on how creativity is getting the short shrift in the educational system is an important and valid point. Creativity has become the educational system’s Rodney Dangerfield. The hierarchy of the education system is built with Math and languages at the top, followed by the humanities and sports and finally the arts are unapologetically tacked on at the bottom of the curriculum. They are considered to be expendable programs that get little attention and in some cases children are steered away from them. Mr. Robinson makes the point that children are told that they don’t want to be musicians or artists, because those are not lucrative fields.
It’s sad that some of the most original and creative thinkers are discouraged from their passion because of the perception that the arts are at best something marginal. So much emphasis is placed upon doing the right thing. Taking the right classes, choosing the right school, making the right career choices, moving into the right neighborhood so that your kids can go to the right schools in order to get into the right college, and so on. I agree with Mr. Robinson that, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” It’s time we turn the educational system on it’s head and require our schools to validate the arts rather than making them the first thing to get thrown onto the chopping block. What this world needs is more original thinkers. Math and science can be learned but creativity has to be nurtured. I’ve used this quote before (and I paraphrase) but it’s worth repeating: I can imagine a world without art, but I don’t think I would want to live there.