One of the first things I downloaded on my iPhone was the Ted Talks video that featured Sir Ken Robinson, the one titled “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” For some reason, it’s one of those pieces of content that I feel like I have to consume every few months or so. It just says so much about what’s wrong with the current view of education, and it’s one of the reasons why we’re encouraging our kids as much as possible to play and dance and draw and sing. (In fact, we may be dropping a family trip to the beach in a couple of weeks so Tess can go to drama camp…like she needs it.) I love when he says:
“The whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people, think they’re not because the thing they were good at in school wasn’t valued or was actually stigmatized. And I think we can’t afford to go on that way.”
He makes such a compelling case for rethinking our approach, yet it’s a case that we here in America certainly aren’t listening to. A study released yesterday of about 350 districts across the country showed that 44% of them were reducing time on art, music, health and physical education. Instead, we’re getting more and more focused on reading and math where the standardized test scores really matter, a 31% decrease overall in subjects that aren’t tested.
Now I know Daniel Pink isn’t an educator, and I hear those who are wondering why we here in edbloggerworld seem to revere “A Whole New Mind” as much as we do. But when he says that creativity and right-brained thinking will be more and more crucial to success, that an MFA will mean more than a MBA, it resonates because we’re in a highly creative space. In this network, creativity abounds. At almost every turn, people are pushing the tools, playing, making connections, trying things out, succeeding and failing in most transparent ways. And the cool thing is, we all learn from what others do, at least I do, whether it works or not. To me, Twitter and CommentPress and Skitch, which I’m playing with tonight, cropping photos in new ways and experimenting, are chances to explore and to dig…to construct. Yeah…we construct with Twitter. What a concept. Or watching my kids play with Scratch. Why is this any different from putting pencil to paper and drawing, writing stories, making ideas become real? Creating?
But it’s obvious our classrooms and our structures don’t support this, nor can they when saddled with standards like the ones we’ve imposed. If Pink is right, if my kids really will need to be more creative and flexible thinkers to succeed in their futures, we’ll have to be the ones to get them there.
(Photo “Children’s Day-VI” by Carf.)
Technorati Tags: creativity, readwriteweb, KenRobinson, education, schools, art
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Rick Weinberg says
Schools are killing creativity. I believe that schools are cutting time in which students participate in gym, music, art and health. I see it in New York State. What about public speaking class? You remember speech class. I feel communication is probably the most important 21st century skill a student will need to have. I think there will be many problems if our schools actually help students to become more flexible and creative thinkers and not also foster good communication skills in our youth. What good is a good idea if you can’t communicate it. I talk more about this on my blog
Christian Long says
Will – This is PRECISELY the sort of conversation you need to introduce (or inspire) when out in California in cahoots with The Institute for The Future gang in a few weeks. Also, see if you can offer a presentation to the NAIS (National Association for Independent Schools) national conference in 08; Dan Pink is the keynote, from what I’ve been told. While he never really thought education was a key audience when he wrote AWNM, he’s been a hot commodity on the education conference circuit as of late. Also, since you’re crossing paths with Alan November more and more, check out their 3 part podcast series on “School Design” that was made public a a few months ago. Good content for you to put into play here and in future presentations. Finally, if you want Sir Ken’s contact info, let me know. He actually lives in the U.S. now (West Coast) and was an absolutely charming man to spend time with out in Portland, OR in May. BTW, he and DK (of MediaSnackers) have connected recently on a podcast that I think you’d love. Here’s the link: http://mediasnackers.com/report/2007/June/24/385/ You might also want to take a listen to DK’s podcast with Stephen Heppell, as well, while you’re ‘there’: http://mediasnackers.com/report/2007/June/08/373/ Another creative guru from the ‘other side of the pond’. Keep up the push on “creativity”…and have a ball listening to Tess talk about drama camp when she returns later this summer. Cheers to you, brother — Christian
David Robb says
I hate hearing about the arts and physical education being reduced, especially in the name of testing.
I love the response from my favorite teacher movie, Mr. Holland’s Opus, when Mr. Holland is informed the music program will be cut so more time can be devoted to reading and writing. I don’t remember the exact quote but Mr. Holland said something like, “When you take away the arts from these kids, they aren’t going to have anything to read or write about.”
I really hope are next president leads us away from our current testing culture and, in turn, gives educators more freedom to foster creativity in our students.
I have believed that schools have been killing creativity for at least 20 years – probably more like 40, but I’ve only been involved in schools as a teacher since ’77. I teach music. I’m not saying that we’re killing creativity because we’ve lost class time and funding for the arts but because we tell our kids “how” to do everything! When they are finally allowed to create some project, we tell them that the people have to look like the person sitting next to them, they have to have 2 eyes and they have to be the same color. We tell them to color inside the lines. What if I want to have outside the lines be my space? What if my name was Picasso? Did a teacher some time and some where tell him that his people needed to look like the child next to him? Thank goodness he didn’t listen! We tell them that their story has to be X-length and it needs to have so many adjectives, so many sentences in each paragraph, and it needs to be about a certain topic. Why? Why do the kids have to write to the teacherâ€™s specifications? Thatâ€™s why I donâ€™t plan to do any more formal education. I have finally gotten to the point that I am not going to write for someone else â€“ not going to write what someone else wants. If I want to write, I will do it in the manner I want to â€“ for the reasons that fill my need.
I have had so many of my colleagues tell me that when they were in music class as a child, their music teacher asked them not to sing â€“ just move your lips, you donâ€™t sing well. Are we all to be Beverly Sills, Luciano Pavarotti, or can we just be ourselves? Who says what a â€œgoodâ€ voice is and what is not? What may be pleasing to me may be so harsh to your ears that you would rather cry.
Along with killing the creativity in our kids, we’re also telling them that play is not a good thing â€“ not important. We take recess out of their day and then wonder why they canâ€™t keep working. How do you learn something new in your world? For me, playing is the only way to really learn something. In order to be able to effectively use a tool, I have to find out what all it can do. To do that, I have to play. Perhaps if we managed to give adult the permission they need to play, they could then give that same permission back to our kids.
Thank you for posting Sir Ken Robinsonâ€™s video. I had never even heard of it before. I donâ€™t know how I missed it, but I have shared it several times already tonight. We all have to get in on helping our kids learn to play and to create again! They have to know that when they are the creator, there are no wrong answers. I believe only by allowing them that freedom will they gain the creativity to carry on through their lives.
Two years ago I worked through a particularly frustrating situation with my students. Once a quarter we would write a pretty standard 5 paragraph anlystical essay and once a quarter I would let them choose their own product for evidencing their learning. By the end of the year many of them were choosing to write a 5 paragraoh essay which frustrated me because I wanted them to choose something that they were excited about. So, I asked them what they said when I assigned them a 5 paragraph essay, their response was that it was boring… I then asked them why they then chose boring for themselves. This was a transformative moment with 7th and 8th graders to realize that they would rather choose boring and predictable than exciting and creative. This past year’s goal was to not choose boring for ourselves.
(Wow, Diana – what a discovery. The conditioning we inflict on students is shocking, and I love the “unbrainwashing” that happened in your class.)
Will, I’m in Korea, but it’s an American curriculum international school. And while we’re not reducing creative electives like the schools in the study you cite, the American stifle is affecting us in other ways.
Case in point: we’re an AP school (despite a movement by teachers to change us to IB instead). I’m taking a UCLA AP Lit teachers’ workshop right now. One of the assignments was to write a lesson plan for teaching poetry.
Because my own high school experience was so “future professor”-oriented in its pedagogy, forcing analytical essay after analytical essay on students, and because I hated that about high school (and thus hated poetry until I had enough time to ‘detox’ after high school and discover literature outside of school), I wrote a two-session lesson plan having students draw two poems, discuss their discoveries from that in filmed videoconferences, and mash those discussions into iMovies.
My AP workshop teacher gave me a B+ because I didn’t assign a “verbally rigorous literary analysis paper” in the unit. (Seeing as how she also disabled all multimedia functions in the class Blackboard, restricting us to text-only for this 5-week virtual class, I wasn’t surprised. But I was shocked, still.)
I posted a link to Mike Tyson’s Mabry Middle School student filmmaking presentation at NECC as a roundabout way of arguing that students can learn more through making films than writing an old paper.
Keep up the good fight.
Wait, the Tyson I was talking about still had both front teeth. So it wasn’t Mike Tyson, was it? It was Tim 😉
My daughter is studying to become an opera singer in college. She will be applying to graduate programs this fall. If I hear one more person ask me how she will support herself with a music degree I will scream. Our entire society needs to start valuing creative careers.
Huh. I way saying virtually the same thing yesterday.
It is officially a concensus and I think we should annoint Sir Ken our new Secretary of Education in America.
For the record – I was lucky enough to hear Sir Ken in person a few years ago (not at TED sadly) and it touched me more deeply than any speaker I have ever heard. It was life changing for me in some ways. Thanks for continuing to bring him up.
I just met Ken Robinson a few days ago in San Francisco at the annual Gear Up conference. I was excited, as I had also enjoyed his TED video. He was extremely witty and had the audience laughing and captivated the entire time.
A couple points he made that I scribbled down to consider later…
“Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value.”
“There are things you can do to become more creative, just like enhancing other skills.”
“We need radical education reform.”
‘Our job in education is to prepare youth for a world we cannot comprehend.’ (something like that- he was talking quickly)
“What really makes the biggest difference in education is brilliant teaching…creative curriculum and delivery.”
“Education is a social system.” (driven by emotion)
‘Academic Intelligence tends to be about increasing math, reason, logic, language vs. the whole mind: emotional, kinesthetic, artistic.’
“Everybody thinks differently, yet we tend to teach everybody the same.”
He also spoke briefly on the concept of Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants (another person’s label) and how computer power was increasing tremendously and not slowing down, to the point where computers may be able to actually learn by rewriting their own operating code within 10 years.
Pamela Carr says
What a wonderful conversation to be having just before school starts again. If our districts are going to try and stifle creativity we as teachers must make sure we encourage it in our classrooms. WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. We need to choose creativity for ourselves and then the students will begin to choose it too.
I was jammed for time yesterday and didn’t include year two of my stop boring ourselves campaign… this coming year it will be to stop sucking the joy out of children. The difference I see in students between being outside in an unstructured learning environment (where a TON of learning is happening) and inside the classroom is stark. I try very hard to make my classroom engaging, three dimensional and whatnot, but even I could tell the difference in the level of joy in the students when we returned to the building. The excitement lasted for a few a little while, waning as the days passed.
I am not proposing that we blow sunshine all the time, but that we truly engage students in learning environments that promote interest, engagement and joy. So this year in my classroom we will not be choosing boring or sucking joy from the students. It’s always good to have a goal, right?
Antonio Viva says
I agree with Pamela, this is a great conversation for the dog days of summer. Daniel Pink isn’t the only one talking about nurturing and developing the creative mind. If you have not had an opportunity to do so, pick up Howard Gardner’s new book, 5 Minds of the Future. I read both books back to back and the two authors argue very similar ideas. Empathy, creativity, synthesis etc.
If I might offer an additional thought, the change we are looking to create in our schools cannot be mandated system wide. Having worked nationally on comprehensive school reform projects, district/school wide initiatives fail to foster the buy in needed for success. Schools that articulate a mission driven, strategic direction must be willing to “organically” engage each member of the community, and more importantly the faculty with choosing an area that speaks to them. A 9th grader who experiences five periods with five different teachers, some of whom are struggling with a technology mandate will not have as rich an experience as the 9th grader whose day is made up of classes where one teacher weaves technology into a lesson, another multicultural themes, and yet another service learning opportunities.
The approach needs to be left to the individual strengths and passions of our teachers, however, we must agree that each one of us will in turn, select an area where we might innovate, create or inspire a new way of thinking. The direction or mission driven goals of the school need to be articulated and understood by all, and yet, the actual journey toward reaching those goals must be more organic.
As an administrator, asking a math teacher to incorporate multicultural themes in her class may be a stretch, so why not encourage her to go with her strengths and support her to make more use of technology with her Algebra class. The very nature of creativity is the willingness to try something new, scrap an old idea and start fresh. I contend that in order for schools to create environments where they foster and nurture creativity in their students, they MUST be willing to establish environments that make it part of the culture for the adults as well.
D. Bowers says
I am an early childhood teacher who loves to sing, dance, and create fun art projects! I enjoy playing Jack Hartman and Dr. Jean CD’s for my kids. We usually sing and dance everyday, and that’s in addition to our special periods.
An administrator (from a previous position)dropped by our room while we were singing letter sound songs and told me to “stop playing and to start teaching”. I couldn’t believe my ears! With the use of these CD’s, not only was I teaching my students phonemic awareness skills, patterns, and rhythms, but integrating gross motor skills as well.
Since I tend to be strong-willed, I continued to sing, dance, and do art on a regular basis. We just made sure it was when the principal wasn’t visiting our hall.
I also agree with David Robb; our next president needs to shift the educational focus away from testing and include artisitic creativity.
Gary Stager says
Thanks for your post. I’ve been working all day trying to formulate a response.
You are correct. The Sir Ken Robinson TEDTalk is terrific. The variety of the TED presenters, famous and obscure, speak to the limitless range of human potential.
I agree with the need for many more richer deeper varied arts experiences being made available for every kid in the world. My music education in NJ enriched my life in innumerable ways.
Studying music (up to three periods per day) with professional musicians (expert mentors) in the Wayne public schools laid the foundation for both my Ph.D. in Science and Math Education and being the new media producer for a Grammy Award-winning project this year. Learning to program in the 7th grade, where it was required for every student, helped me develop the habits of mind that serve me everyday.
My social activism and vocation are built upon early success in saving school music from the budget ax at the age of 18. Devaluing the arts is not new or the exclusive fault of NCLB. The nation began losing its soul and sense or priorities decades ago.
Although school was often a mind-numbing, soul-killing experience I learned to play an instrument, love the arts, program computers and compose music in the public schools.
All of these first-hand experiences provide the context in which I can evaluate the frivolous claims of Daniel Pink. I have written a more extensive review of A Whole New Mind on my blog, Stager-to-Go.
Pink’s entire thesis falls apart in the book’s opening paragraph.
Such caricatures and simplistic dichotomies not only devalue the “minds” of millions of people, but do great violence to education. Please consider the review I’ve posted. I sincerely welcome the dialogue.
All the very best,