User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Schools are still killing creativity.

with 8 comments

Several posts this week noted how we are failing with the nurturing, facilitating, and direct teaching of creativity within school environments.

Adobe posted Universal Concern that Creativity is Suffering at Work and School

New research reveals a global creativity gap in five of the world’s largest economies, according to the Adobe® State of Create global benchmark study. The research shows 8 in 10 people feel that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth and nearly two-thirds of respondents feel creativity is valuable to society, yet a striking minority – only 1 in 4 people – believe they are living up to their own creative potential. More than half of those surveyed feel that creativity is being stifled by their education systems, and many believe creativity is taken for granted (52% globally, 70% in the United States).

One of the myths of creativity is that very few people are really creative,” said Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D., an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation. “The truth is that everyone has great capacities but not everyone develops them. One of the problems is that too often our educational systems don’t enable students to develop their natural creative powers. Instead, they promote uniformity and standardization. The result is that we’re draining people of their creative possibilities and, as this study reveals, producing a workforce that’s conditioned to prioritize conformity over creativity.”

David Brooks in his New York Times op-ed piece The Creative Monopoly notes the following:

Creative people don’t follow the crowds; they seek out the blank spots on the map. Creative people wander through faraway and forgotten traditions and then integrate marginal perspectives back to the mainstream. Instead of being fastest around the tracks everybody knows, creative people move adaptively through wildernesses nobody knows.

Students have to jump through ever-more demanding, preassigned academic hoops. Instead of developing a passion for one subject, they’re rewarded for becoming professional students, getting great grades across all subjects, regardless of their intrinsic interests. Instead of wandering across strange domains, they have to prudentially apportion their time, making productive use of each hour.

But none of this is new.  Most educators are familiar with Sir Ken Robinson’s 2007 TED talk, Do Schools Kill Creativity?

But the culture of schools is driven by standardization – common core standards, standardized curriculum, standardized tests.  I appreciate creativity-based projects within school time such as Google 20% Project, Fedex days, and Identity Days, but why is the inclusion of passion-based and creativity-driven pursuits considered an add-on or special occasion?  We know better.  Creativity is a great intrinsic motivator, the essence for innovation, and important for the continued evolution of the self and humankind.  It has been five years since Sir Ken’s talk and schools are still killing creativity.

For some of the more creative kids, their creativity will help them survive their standardized school years.  For others, this standardization crushes their passions, spirits, joy.  I believe the biggest ethical travesty of our times is extinguishing a child’s passion.

May Your Sky Always Be Yellow

He always wanted to explain things. But no one cared
So he drew
Sometimes he would draw and it wasn’t anything. He wanted to carve it in stone
Or write it in the sky
He would lie out on the grass. And look up at the sky
And it would be only the sky and him that needed saying
And it was after that. He drew the picture. It was a beautiful picture
He kept it under his pillow. And would let no one see it
And he would look at it every night. And think about it
And when it was dark. And his eyes were closed. He could still see it
And it was all of him. And he loved it
When he started school he brought it with him
Not to show anyone but just to have it with him. Like a friend
It was funny about school
He sat in a square brown desk. Like all the other square brown desks
And he thought it should be red
And his room was a square brown room. Like all the other rooms
And it was tight and close. And stiff
He hated to hold the pencil and chalk
With his arms stiff and his feet flat on the floor.  Stiff
With the teacher watching. And watching
The teacher came and smiled at him
She told him to wear a tie. Like all the other boys
He said he didn’t like them. And she said it didn’t matter
After that they drew. And he drew all yellow
And it was the way he felt about morning
And it was beautiful
The teacher came and smiled at him
“What’s this?” she said
“Why don’t you draw something like Ken’s drawing?”
“Isn’t that beautiful?”
After that his mother bought him a tie
And he always drew airplanes and rocket ships. Like everyone else
And he threw the old picture away
And when he lay out alone and looked out at the sky. It was big and blue and all of everything
But he wasn’t anymore
He was square inside and brown. And his hands were stiff
And he was like everyone else
And the things inside him that needed saying
Didn’t need it anymore
It had stopped pushing
It was crushed
Stiff
Like everything else.

The boy handed this poem to his English teacher. Two weeks later he took his own life.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 25, 2012 at 12:10 am

8 Responses

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  1. […] Creativity is a phenomenon that is constantly evolving, redefining itself each day with every new creation. Something that teachers & students use & rely heavily upon while at school, creativity is a major factor in all that we do, but what is the status of Creativity in our classrooms & schools? How are students & teachers working with this phenomenon? Are schools killing Creativity? […]

  2. oh my Jackie.

    monika hardy

    April 29, 2012 at 2:02 pm

  3. Jackie. This is my third time reading through this post. The first time I read through it because you linked to the “20% Project” I did with my class. The second time I was doing an inservice at my district and wanted to reference this article. This time I’m reading it doing research for a book on “20% Time in Education” I’m writing.

    So…why have I decided now is the time to leave a comment? I believe right now is the most important ever in education. It is the most important time to be a teacher, professor, administrator, policy maker, parent, student etc. I also believe that THIS TOPIC is the most vital to the success of education in our country and around the world.

    You mention “the culture of schools is driven by standardization – common core standards, standardized curriculum, standardized tests” and i do agree that this is a public perception, but it may not be the truth. The culture of schools I’ve been associated with is one of living day-by-day trying to get by. Students are focused on the next assignment, next marking period, next grade. Teachers are focused on the next everything. Principals are focused on the next test, board meeting, or inservice. Rarely do those in the trenches get a moment to take a step back and take a look at where we are heading. More importantly, they almost never ask the question of “why are we heading there?”

    There are a select few people within a school district who have the time and job desciption that allows them to plan for the future. These are the people who need to hear your message. Ken Robinson’s message, and the message of thousands of other educators and students who know that passion is being destroyed in our schools.

    Othewise it will continue to be a system where only the “few” have opportunities to pursue these creativity-driven project while the “many” are never given a chance. I hope we can swing the tide. It’s the reason I’m writing my book.

    Thanks for all you continue to do, and stay gritty!

    AJ Juliani

    December 7, 2012 at 1:41 am

    • AJ – Thanks for your response, passion, and obvious dedication to changing the system. I appreciate and agree with your comment The culture of schools I’ve been associated with is one of living day-by-day trying to get by. Students are focused on the next assignment, next marking period, next grade. Teachers are focused on the next everything. Principals are focused on the next test, board meeting, or inservice. Rarely do those in the trenches get a moment to take a step back and take a look at where we are heading. More importantly, they almost never ask the question of “why are we heading there?” I do think, though, that a causation of this problem is standardization and an education system based on accountability. I also agree that part of the problem is as you state, Why are we heading there? I address this in Learning on the Edge https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2012/08/19/learning-on-the-edge/. Good luck with the book. Let me know if I can help.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      December 8, 2012 at 2:39 pm

  4. Reblogged this on limfablog.

    fbartoli

    December 28, 2014 at 9:01 am

  5. Do you have attribution for the poem? I only want to make a sign for my creative ADHD kid. I keep telling him that if he can stick it out through high school then his energy and ideas will suddenly become an asset. I try to make sure he has access to craft materials and a variety of out of school experiences but when you’re in the fifth grade high school graduation seems so far away. I’m fighting to keep his flame brilliant and strong but sometimes… this poem is too accurate in describing his school experience. Thanks, Shari

    Sharienne Weidner

    May 9, 2015 at 5:20 pm

  6. Student Creativity is killing by the Current Poor System of Education and there are many basic Factor like School, Teachers, Companies, Society Politicians and many more.

    EduNuts

    September 16, 2015 at 9:33 am


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