Creativity in Children Dead? Blame it on the education system

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Do you have a creative as a four year old kid? Do you express your creativity often? There might be few of us who would answer “Yes” to these questions. If you are one of them then keep it up. But most of us would say a big “No” looking at the deprivation of creativity in our day today lives. Lack of creative expression creates a life lacking in meaning and fulfillment. Some of us are so creatively dead that we feel this skill is essential only for artists, writers and musicians and not for everyone. Let’s look into the importance of creativity to see why we all need to instill creative ways of thinking.

This world runs on the wheels of creativity. Right from the cave men discovering fire to cook food or using the branches of trees to build houses, human beings have survived on this planet due to their ability to create and imagine. Without creativity we would not have the light bulb, aeroplane, computer, cancer drugs, buildings, books and so on. The list of all incredible things human creativity has created is just countless. The need for creativity is not limited to a person pursuing art, music, dance or writing. It goes well beyond these fields. In the world of management a high level of creative intelligence is required to find solutions to the business problems, to come up with ways to market the products of a company or to start a new company. Several distinguished authors have written books stating the importance of creativity in the global marketplace. In the book “Five Minds for the Future” the author Howard Gardner talks about creative intelligence being one of the five kinds of cognitive abilities required for success in the 21st century. In another book “A whole new mind: Why right-brainers will rule the future?” the author Daniel Pink talks about how creative thinkers are going to rule the future replacing the logical thinkers who have ruled till now. There is no doubt that creativity is imperative to be successful and to lead a more fulfilling life. If this is so then why isn’t our education system nurturing our creativity? Why is it that kids possessing exceptional creative talents are forced to pursue a conventional path of engineering or management? Albert Einstein pointed out on this issue saying “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift”

We are all plagued by this misconception that only few people are blessed with creative talents. This is a big myth that people are holding in their minds. Go down the memory lane and you will be able to quote at least one or two instances where you expressed yourself creatively. Be it your unusual sketch in the art class, stories of some imaginary characters, your unique style of dancing or your ability to craft something interesting out of the things you curiously picked from the dustbin. Pablo Picasso was right when he said “All children are artists but very few remain artists when they grow up”. We are all naturally gifted with creativity but we lose this magical gift due to lack of stimulation. And what causes this lack of stimulation? Our not so creatively inclined education system

Ken Robinson a leading expert on innovation and creativity recently gave a talk on TED titled “Do schools kill creativity?” In this talk Ken stresses on how our education system squanders the extraordinary creative capacity we possess as kids. He says “Creativity is as important as literacy in education. We should treat it with some respect” Remember your favorite drawing class where you expressed your imagination and creativity by painting the sea pink instead of blue and the teacher asked you to correct the mistake and be more realistic and practical. Our education system does not encourage open-mindedness and imagination. It is narrow- minded, rigid and concentrated only on devouring as much information as we can. We are not encouraged to apply the knowledge we have gained through experimentation and exploration. This approach prevails not only in schools but also in the higher education level. By constantly criticizing the child’s efforts at creativity we are imbibing in them the fear of making mistakes. This fear of failure or being wrong is something that stops us from expressing our creativity as adults.

Why is it that schools value subjects like mathematics and science over art, dance or music? They are all important. Like scientists or mathematicians we also need artists and dancers. Don’t we? Parents pressurize their children to pursue the conventional path of engineering or medical even after discovering that their child is more inclined towards art or dance. Schools never help students discover their talents or pursue their passion.  This creates a lot of frustration and in some cases depression and suicidal tendencies. Kids are constantly doing something they don’t like and in which they are not quite good, to please the parent. This creates low self esteem and the children begin to believe that they are not valuable enough. They are not fulfilled and in the constant state of depression. This issue that prevails in our society, has been talked about in several movies also like “Tare zameen par” and the recent “3 Idiots”

In his talk Ken Robinson tells us the story of a famous dancer and choreographer named Gillian Lynne. She has created iconic musicals of “Phantom of opera” and “Cats”. As a kid, Gillian was not doing well in school. Her parents thought that she has a learning disorder and took her to a specialist. After listening to her mother explain this issue, the specialist went to Gillian and said “I want to speak to your mom privately about this. You wait here and we will be back very soon”. He turned on the radio that was lying on the table while moving out. The specialist along with Gillian‘s mother then secretly watched her through the window. What they saw then was magical. Gillian was on her feet dancing beautifully to the music. The specialist then turned to the mother and said “Gillian is not sick, she is a dancer. Take her to a dance school” Gillian has now found her own dance company, is a multimillionaire and a very successful person. Imagine what would have happened if Gillian had been pressurized to study and follow the conventional path against her talents and interests. She would not have been as successful as she is now. Her latent talent would have made her life miserable. This is how our education system is killing all the geniuses out there. Einstein put across this issue beautifully in his quote “Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.”Aren’t we doing this most of the time? Education should be based on a person‘s passion and his talents. How can it have same format for individuals with different talents and interests.

Our education system just prepares a person to get a job and be secure. But security is not success. Otherwise we would not have highly successful and exceptional people like Steve Jobs and Einstein who dropped out of school and college do exceptionally well in their lives. All these successful people had one thing in common -They all refused to follow the herd, instead they chose to apply their naturally gifted creative talents and pursue something they were passionate about.

This world would be full of possibilities if each one of us is creatively alive. We would have new solutions to solve business problems, new ways to treat deadly diseases and new companies opening up providing job opportunities to all. We would be living in a world enriched with beautiful pieces of art and music. More than anything we would have people living a joyous life because everyone is expressing themselves creatively and just being their unique self.

We as  the youth need to make an effort to make people aware of the precious gift of creativity they possess and the urgent need to revamp our education system for the bright future of the country.

Swati Ramnath

[Image Courtesy: http://sandraghitescu.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/creativity-com_479f8882bf3f1.jpg]

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