Does School Kill Creativity?
Posted by: Teacher ia | on August 12, 2013
One morning, I spent some time looking for a new Facebook cover for the Special Education Philippines FB Page. I found one that really caught my attention visually and emotionally. It says “In the eyes of a child, you will see… the world as it should be.” In this light, I will reflect on the message of Sir Ken Robinson in line with a class discussion I had in my Master’s class on critical and creative thinking. That is, like a child, I am taking a risk to say what is really on my mind and if I do commit any mistake I wish to realize it and hopefully, learn from it.
Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk is entitled “How School Kills Creativity“.
I have been listening to TED talks for quite some time now but this is the first time I’ve watched the TED talk of Sir Ken Robinson. Listening to his talk, made me realize three things:
1. I have never seen a boring TED talk. So far, I have watched countless TED talks already and I have enjoyed them all. It is wonderful to have a platform such as TED where you can share what you think about the world under your own microscope. Way back when I was in college, we were asked to make a hay infusion. After some days, we put a drop of the infusion under a slide to observe different bacteria in low power and high power objective. In my hay infusion, I couldn’t find anything. I think my infusion was too clean (a sign of my “obsessive compulsiveness” to clean which makes it hard for me to make anything dirty). To be able to complete the activity, I looked at my classmate’s slide instead. At that point, a thought crossed over in my head. What if for the bacteria we are like god? That somehow bacteria can be aware that we exist (because they react to the stimulus we give them) but then due to their limited capacity to sense things, they can’t really get a clear picture of us. Is it possible that for them (the bacteria that are) that what we do is somehow godly already compared to what they can do? Wouldn’t it be interesting to realize that the concept of God maybe the same for us? That although our perception is so limited yet we push everyday for more knowledge…more information because we know somewhere out there is a source higher than us but we cannot fathom it because of our very limited capacity? Then again (to the bacteria that is), how will this information serve them? Will it improve the bacteria? Will it cause it to evolve? Will it change it?
2. It is interesting what Sir Ken Robinson said that our current education system is geared in producing university professors. (If that’s the case then does that mean that nobody’s going to have dinner parties anymore?!) I think here in the Philippines, education seems to be regarded as a fallback job. People (and even mothers) would say “Magturo ka na lang.” I get irritated when I hear the word “lang” as if it is some consolation. I pleat that if you cannot get a job, please don’t teach because we don’t want to create a future that will produce another batch of future jobless graduates. You see, if you are looking for something to do then why not try to become an entrepreneur instead? You might even discover your real passion. However, this leads us again to the chicken & egg problem in the education system. Because we were trained very well to follow instructions and not make mistakes, going into business where the risk is very high and the probability of making mistakes (not just one but countless times) is as possible of the sun rising on the east, then we choose instead a profession which our system trained as very well to do – teaching?!
To teach creativity and critical thinking would be difficult if one does not use his/her own creative and critical thinking skills as well. However, I do not recall a subject in my schooling days (except for the one I am currently taking now ) which specifically honed these skills in me. I think I might have picked up the critical thinking skills during my college training because of my exposure to laboratory experiments. Yet, even those activities had a limitation because data has to be empirically verifiable. Anything that is outside the expected result was cast aside as “others”. We did not have enough time in the laboratory to explore the results that did not fit the box. For example, going back to my experience with the hay infusion, technically I made a mistake but since there is hay in my water and heaven knows what is stuck in my hay, how come I did not see even a single bacteria? If I was allowed to explore my mistakes and not get stigmatized by it as Sir Ken Robinson said, could it have been possible that I may have discovered something new? However, according to my laboratory teacher I might have done something wrong in my hay infusion. Usually, we tell our students that when they encounter a mistake they should stop and retrace their steps and see what went wrong. What if instead of retracing, I change the path? Will that be re-inventing the wheel? Am I just making it hard for myself because what’s the use of a hay infusion anyway? But then what if I was given the freedom to do what I want to do even if did not promise immediate productive results? Would I have walked a different path?
Or just like my teacher who was trained to teach in a certain way and speak a certain way preparing me to be a good worker/follower rather than an excellent scientist (how I wish)?
Lastly, if I had time to explore more in the laboratory would I have been the next Marie Curie. Since I did not get that much freedom to explore my unexplained and unexpected results here I am teaching Science to children with special needs? Subconsciously did I think “Sige magtuturo na lang ako kasi hindi naman ako naging siyentipiko?”
Honestly, I don’t know the answer to these questions. I think it would need more reflection. However, I think it’s kind of too late now to change course. And who said I cannot perform researches in education? (optimism kicking in)
3. Are talented people creative? This question I would like to explore in my last point of reflection. It was mentioned in the class that Cecile Licad might not be described creative as she is just playing compositions that she did not originally composed. The thought of not associating the concept of “creativity” to Cecile Licad gave me the shudder. I felt adamant to raise my flag to contest this notion. On the other hand, Sir Ken Robinson praised Sirena Huang, the 11-year old violinist who played an interlude in one of the TED Talks. Another musician I would like to acknowledge is James Rhodes who played an Etude in the piano using his left hand. Since we are talking about creativity, these people with “exceptional dedication who found their talent” as Sir Robinson described “are they not creative?” If we will go back to the class discussion of the definition of creativity, it was mentioned that “creativity takes place in conjunction with intense desire and preparation.” It is output oriented since “is thinking patterned in a way that tends to lead to creative results Perkins (1984)
Sir Ken Robinson also observed that more countries have put mathematics and literature at the top of the pyramid of important subjects followed by humanities and lastly, the arts. Under arts, art and music are placed higher than dance and drama. This may be true because with math and sciences, the answers to questions are definite and exact. It can be explained relatively easier compared to Arts. Also Math and Science can be done in a step-by-step process and so it leaves little space for inconsistency and error. However, in the arts an intriguing question was raised: How can one judge an output objectively when it was created subjectively? Thus, our class discussion leads us to contemplate if creativity should have standards. Before I took the class, my belief was that there should be no standard for the Arts because it’s like putting creativity in a box. If the concept fits the box then doesn’t that defeat the purpose of creativity? It’s a good thing that I heard about the explicitness corollary of creativity “despite creativity being multi faceted”. Reading the PowerPoint presentation about creativity, it strengthened my resolve that although judging the product of creativity might be difficult but still it is possible for me to assess whether a product is a creative result or not based on the process the individual underwent to produce such a product. For this realization, I am thankful to be part of this course.
Just like Sir Ken Robinson, I have an interest in education. Where it will bring me? Will I be able to see its evolution in my lifetime? Will I be a witness to the changes I long to see? I am not sure of the future and yet I think that is the exciting part.
Robinson, K. (2006, February). Ken Robinson Says School Kills Creativity [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html?2.
Huang, S (2006, February). Sirena Huang: An 11 Year Old’s Magical Violine [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/sirena_huang_dazzles_on_violin.html
Educ 295 Teaching Strategies for Developing Critical and Creative Thinking (Lecture Notes for Creativity) under Professor J. Carina Veluz-Clavio