Monday, May 25, 2009
Education and creativity
You may have seen this TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson titled Do Schools Kill Creativity? I only discovered it last week when a friend of mine posted it on Facebook. It's not only interesting and insightful but also really funny ("If a man speaks his mind in a forest, and no woman hears him, is he still wrong?"), so if you haven't seen it, press Play. If you have, watch it again.
I was a bit reluctant to watch it because of the title, Do Schools Kill Creativity? It's all too easy to criticize schools and teachers. Most teachers want to encourage creativity and give every child an opportunity to shine. They do their best to make their subjects interesting and to promote creativity. But what many people don't realize is that teachers work in a very difficult environment and are under a lot of pressure to prove that they are doing their jobs well, which is why, a lot of the time, they have to teach children how to pass exams, instead of how to think for themselves.
Fortunately Sir (I love that he's been knighted) Ken Robinson is not talking about teacher's shortcomings, but about a systemic problem. The fact that our education is based on an outdated system that encourages homogeneous thinking, and it's based on memorizing facts, dates, and formulae instead of giving children the skills to come to their own conclusions. A system that doesn't encourage experimentation or the value of making mistakes as learning tools, and that, as he brilliantly put it, prepares everyone to be an University professor.
Shouldn't we be teaching children to think for themselves, shouldn't we be giving them the skills to create, look at things in a different light? Experiment? Shouldn't we be fostering their different talents?
I was lucky at school, I found it fairly easy and never had to try that hard, but I was definitely encouraged to stick with what I did well. Spanish and writing were my strong points, it was decided early on (and for this, I'm grateful). I was also told that Foreign Languages, and English in particular, were definitely not my thing. I now realize that what wasn't right for me was the teaching method, but if it hadn't been for my love of traveling and my curiosity about other cultures, I'd still think that English was something I couldn't do.
Sir Ken Robinson advocates a school that promotes uniqueness, that caters to different learning styles, that fosters mistakes as a way to learn things, that encourages children to experiment and be creative. I hope that we can make this a reality.