Saturday, May 12, 2012

Do schools kill creativity?

From the talk given by Sir Ken Robinson:
At a drawing class:
Teacher: What are you drawing?
Girl: The picture of God.
Teacher: But nobody knows what the God looks like.
Girl: They will, in a minute.

What reactions would this reply cause in many cases (hopefully not most)? The girl might have been punished, right? And why? Just because she said something that wasn't what the teacher could accept. How fair is this?

An animated presentation of Sir Ken Robinson's  talk.

The point that Sir Ken Robinson makes is that children are extraordinarily creative and educational system is killing this creativity, or as K. Robinson puts it: We educate children out of their creativity. We squander children's talents by trying to put them into a frame of our educational system, which doesn't allow for any mistakes.

But how do we learn? Don't we learn from our mistakes? What makes children creative? The fact that "They are not afraid of making mistakes. If one is not prepared to make mistakes, one will never come up with anything original" (K.Robinson)

Isn't it true, that while getting educated, children become frightened of making a mistake because either they will be punished, or they will get a low mark which will make their parents angry? Well, I would say that this is true in many schools. The fact that children lose their capacity to be creative is explained by K.Robinson as: "Children start being frightened of making a mistake and thus by the time they are adults they are not as creative as they could be".

Now we have created a condition for children who fidget and are inattentive during lessons, who fail to hand in their homework on time, or who pick fights with other kids at school (maybe out of boredom). The condition is ADHD and these children get fed by a lot of medication to "calm them down". Why do we do this to children? Can all children be equally attentive during classes? Can they all be good at all school subjects? Can they all be well-behaved? And with the number of children diagnosed with ADHD increasing around the world, isn't it time to think that there must be something wrong with the educational system rather than children? At present children can get any information from the Internet and now they can question their teachers if they have read something that differs from what the teacher says. This fact might make children uninterested in lessons, which will lead to their being inattentive, which in its turn will bring down the ADHD diagnosis. (I am not trying to say that there is no such a thing as ADHD, believe me. I don't know this for sure. What I am arguing against is the fact of it being classified as mental illness.)

Why are we trying to standardize all children as well as the way they learn or what they learn? Maybe it's time to find a different way of educating our children so that they benefit from it without losing their creativity and imagination. Then maybe we won't be wondering why we cannot find many creative employees to do the jobs that require this quality, which we do everything to kill while educating children. And maybe we should stop treating children who can't sit still as mentally ill and pump them up with psychotropic drugs but instead try to find out what they can be really good at.


  1. Dear Anna,
    Lovely post. Barbara Sakamoto once said "When I listen to my students making mistakes, I think about how much they have learnt". I think it's a positive way to look at mistakes, must admit that adults find it very frustrating when it comes to making mistakes, and they even prefer not to take risks. Teachers have a great job in this area, we must support them and create an atmosphere where mistakes are allowed. I also have memories of my classroom when I stated teaching with kids, and I just adored when they were talking, lovely noise I keep inside. Standardizing is an issue, and not only for kids. I have the feeling we are living a revolution in terms of assessing in EFL. But it will take a long time, that I know.
    Thanks you sharing your view which I fully share. I work with teenagers and adults and take every opportunity to encourage them to take risks, also I work in a private language office, which helps a lot, reduces the stress of my beloved learners.

  2. Thanks Debbie! :) I also think that it is essential to make mistakes in order to learn something or to come with something interesting. We are afraid of making mistakes because we learnt at school that it is the worst thing we can do. :(