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Do Schools Kill Creativity? If So, What Can We Do About It?

Melissa Taylor

Creativity expert, Sir Ken Robinson asserts that schools kill creativity. Just a few years in our educational system and kids say adios to their innate creative abilities -- creativity defined as creating something original and useful

Notice that creativity's definition (creating something original and useful) is not limited to the arts; it includes all disciplines. 

And, using that definition, you'll understand exactly why we would want creativity in education. Because the alternative is not good -- an education system who produces poor problem solvers who lack the ability to create anything of substance. Bill Gates agreed in his annual letter saying, "Innovation has been & will continue to be the key to improving the world." 

Remember my post on how to raise a creative child? The four essentials were down time, failure, play, and opportunities to invent and create. I hope you've included these in your home life already. Now can we include them in the school day?

By the way, as you can see from the above four elements, you can't teach "creativity" as a special class like music or PE. Nor do you become creative by doing a so-called "creativity kit"

In fact, to address creativity in schools you need a complete shift in both structural and procedural paradigms. Vanderbilt's Steven Tepper, associate director of the Curb Center, says that to facilitate creativity you must have:

  • collaboration
  • diverse environment
  • interdisciplinary exchange
  • time and resources
  • acceptance and encouragement of failure

Interesting. Can you imagine a school environment where interdisciplinary studies replace isolated subjects? And a place where the wrong answer is celebrated?

What else needs to to change in schools?

  • more curiosity
  • more opportunities for divergent thinking (=generating unique solutions and seeing various possibilities)
  • less standardized testing
  • less linear thinking (=memorizing facts, follow instructions, and one right answer) 

Change in education is what Ralph Fletcher compares to the walking trees of Florida that move an inch every 100 years in his book by the same name. In other words, it's slooooooow. However, if we know that schools aren't developing creative thinkers, and we know that  kids need to be creative, and we know what learning conditions must be present (see above,) then we must insist on change, slow or not. 

I say it's time to get some trees walking.

What do you say?