Day 26: Do schools kill creativity? A Ted talk by Sir Ken Robinson

“Do schools kills creativity” is the most popular Ted talk of all time, yet up until this morning I could not bring myself to watch it. Why? Well the topic of school doesn’t exactly yell out innovation, and just like the school homework that I would put off doing until I ran out of my places to metaphorically hide, I knew that I could no longer put off watching the Ted talk that has been watched 26 million times! What did I think? Wow. Just wow. Not only has Ken Robinson given me a whole new perspective on the school system- he also had me in fits of laughter. This guy is funny. I am now convinced that every Ted talk needs to have that layer of British humour added to it.

Education kills creativity

We are born creative says Robinson, but  during our school years our creativity is educated out of us.  One of the most striking comments that Ken made in his talk was that the kids who were starting school that year (this Ted talk was filmed in 2011)  would be  retiring in 2065.  He then  asked the most important question of his entire talk; is the current education system capable of preparing our kids for this unknown future? The public education system was founded during the time of industrialism and this influence is still very evident in contemporary  schools today.  Is it any wonder that schools bear a resemblance to a manufacturing line? Students are separated by age , made to take standardised test and are basically made to aspire and conform to this ideal of what the perfect student is.

Taking chances in this environment is a risk. If you make a mistake your grades might suffer and grades is the foundation of the education system.    Think about it for a moment. Creativity as defined by Robinson is “the process of having original ideas that have value.” Is a school, where grades are used to measure the value of a student, the best place for creative minds to flourish? Having creative ideas sometimes means taking leaps of faith, taking chances and not being afraid to fail.    Regular readers might remember I discussed this dangerous mindset of fearing failure before on a blog post “Is this ‘Fear Failure’ Adidas tshirt sending out the wrong message?”


Hierarchy of subjects

Ken Robinson found out a universal truth about the public education system and that is that their is an elitist attitude around some study areas. Some subjects are perceived to have a higher worth. Maths and English are looked upon far more favourably than the arts. The arts have a stigma attached to them as dead-end subjects that in all likelihood won’t result in career prospectives.  It’s more looked upon as subjects that we take for ‘fun’ without any real future intention attached to it and if a student can push through that stigma and make a real go out of the arts, then perhaps they are a suffering artist, at least that’s the perception.

There was a time when maths and english perhaps belonged to be at the foremost of the curriculum and that was during industrialism when these subject ensured job security upon graduation. During that era the education system met a real need. However today, right now,  shouldn’t the education system be shaken up and reviewed to meet the needs of a changing world? If we keep arts at the bottom of the ladder we are sending the message to our kids that if you choose arts, if you choose creativity then you are inferior to your more academic peers,

What I am taking away from Ken Robinson’s ” Do skills kill creativity”

I like to think that I am creative but maybe my creative vessel,  is dare I say without sounding pretentious,  only half full. Maybe the creativity I was born with got diluted by the educational system and I need to get a refill. I think that this means knowing that it’s okay to approach things differently and take a chance and try less worn-out solutions. Then again maybe Elizabeth Gilbert was right and creativity is not a part of us, rather mystical fairies who go around rubbing fairy juice on all our projects!