Public education VS Creativity – Can you break the rules?

Creativity

Last year I started poll on LinkedIn addressing influence of Public education on our creativity. I posted well known Ken Robinson video and waited for the poll answers.

I was taken by surprise how much this topic is hot, and what contributions were left.

In this post I wish to share with you the brilliance of people involved in the discussion.

Enjoy!

“You have to know the rules before you can break them. All things will stifle your creativity or stimulate it to a certain degree and so in that sense, public education won’t kill creativity, but it will guide it towards something which is an acceptable norm within the constraints of established thinking. “

Ian Furniss • I think It’s a difficult question to give a definitive answer to. To some extent there will always be a need for formal education and a saying comes to mind which shows that “You have to know the rules before you can break them”. Could you be a Photoshop pro for example without actually knowing how to use it? No. You could certainly learn to use it without formal education of course, but that takes time and so I tend to see structured learning having an advantage up to a certain point. Where that point changes is in where you mention, thinking inside or outside boxes. Consider something like Partizan and Red Star, if you support one or the other it’s highly unlikely that you will convince an opposing supporter that yours is the team more worthy of support. That goes the same for ideas. When you have had a lifetime of indoctrination into a certain way of thinking, no matter how much you implore someone to “think outside the box”, what you are really looking for is for them to think within the constrains of your box. Could you have convinced Pavarotti that his talents were wasted and he should have been singing heavy rock? The only way to have free creativity is to abandon formal or public education and teach yourself. Even then, that will be limited by your own life experiences, the things which you like or dislike, each of which will influence your direction. At that point the conclusion I come to is that all things will stifle your creativity or stimulate it to a certain degree and so in that sense, public education won’t kill creativity, but it will guide it towards something which is an acceptable norm within the constraints of established thinking. As a caveat, I should add, it is still possible to do something that is seen as original within those constraints, but it is more likely to be an amalgamation or extension of already existing ideas i:e was rock & roll a new idea or was it an adaptation of R&B, blues, jazz, etc?

 “One should be careful with phrases like that old silly stuff of “deschooling society” the very expression of narcissistic intellectualism. Education is good by itself, schools too. We can certainly make them better and better.” 

Gabriel A. Ramirez • The question itself is tricky. In some way implies that education kills creativity. It puts education under suspect. A much better question is daniel Vauldrin’s and, perhaps an still a better one is: What ca one do to help education and educators to enhance, through educational systems, creativity even and more? One should be careful with phrases like that old silly stuff of “deschooling society” the very expression of narcissistic intellectualism. Or such a good music with lyrics that goes like this “… We don’t need no education, we don´t need school control. Teacher, teacher lives the kid alone” The authors of that music did never ever imagine that with that lyrics they were so massively contributing to today overabundance of “bricks in the wall” all over the world and specially in Britain. Education is good by itself, schools too. We can certainly make them better and better.

Job hiring: Much emphasis has been put on their having a degree, and less on what they bring to the table in regards to real experience, expertise, skills, and abilities.
Melanie Edwards • I am very fascinated by all the comments in this poll. I appreciate the broad spectrum of backgrounds and personalities that LinkedIn brings together for discussions such as this. I agree with much of what I am reading, and had my own “filters” in place when I first commented. For one, thinking in terms just the American public school system. Going beyond that, and outside of other “filters” i had in place, I can certainly appreciate the comments of Ian, Michelle and Vasco regarding stifling creativity in order to be compliant with a structure (my paraphrasing) — but want to take it further. In the USA, there are many people who have not completed their formal education to the point of securing a degree, for a variety of reasons. Some, may pick it back up later in life, some may not, again for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, the persons who are not degreed (I refuse to say uneducated, as that is NOT definitive in all cases) are most often “weeded” out of an interview process for jobs or even promotions, and passed by for someone who has a degree. It is common knowledge, as well, that few people in the USA work in their field of degree anyway. Much emphasis has been put on their having a degree, and less on what they bring to the table in regards to real experience, expertise, skills, and abilities. Our own corporate hiring practices throughout the USA award the people who have conformed to the point of securing a degree (any degree, often), and sometimes overlook the person who can offer the most to the company’s bottom line, top line, mission, and whole environment. IMHO.

 

“Freedom to self-determination leads to more creative behaviour!”

Ron Broens • Vitomir Rašić already shared the speech from Ken Robinson which explains that the current education set-up is not really supporting the development of creative skills and competencies. But also have a look at Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc . His speech is all about following your passions and making your own decisions for your education. Freedom to self-determination leads to more creative behaviour! The system requires change to become more effective in teaching skills that are more difficult to measure. Stay hungry, stay foolish!

 

I lost my independence of thought. So, along about 10 years of “professional career”, I ended up seeing that it was exactly those personal traces that were so much frowned upon that were actually valuable in the real world: autonomy of opinion, transversal thinking, imagination… the things I had to keep in a box in order to succeed in academia are the things society actually needs in order to survive and thrive.”

Vasco Névoa • Like Ian, I agree that we are first and foremost the sum of our experiences. Hence we cannot escape the shared experience that is school. It formats us, whether we like school or not. The deeper question is then: shouldn’t we be more than just that sum? We all believe that we should be capable of using all that experience in novel ways, by remixing it and re-contextualizing it, and we see the world becomes better when we do it. The problem is that this creative thinking implies “doing things differently”. Stepping outside the norm. And being different, like Michelle pointed out, is usually frowned upon in the academic world. It starts in the kindergarten and goes all the way up to college. If you act differently, you’re either weird or cheating. And this is one point where I’d like to make a positive criticism: not all cheating is bad. Some of it is quite creative. Some of it is creative enough to make a difference in the capacity for survival in extreme or unusual conditions (like, say, a global crisis?) Personally, I was always the “different” kind of student. Mostly I was just weird and sometimes loud-mouthed, and sometimes I felt I had to cheat to survive like anyone else. It was a very long and very tough fight, and by the time I finished college I thought I had won: I knew the system and more or less how to navigate it with moderate success. I kept my imagination to myself and just concentrated on being “compatible”, which made me an excellent asset for any company who was looking for a robotic humanoid to expand their production line. But in truth, I had lost. I lost my independence of thought. So, along about 10 years of “professional career”, I ended up seeing that it was exactly those personal traces that were so much frowned upon that were actually valuable in the real world: autonomy of opinion, transversal thinking, imagination… the things I had to keep in a box in order to succeed in academia are the things society actually needs in order to survive and thrive. I’ve been investing in my old self for the past few years, trying to recover that imaginative child that didn’t take “no” as an acceptable option. The good news is that I’m slowly getting there. The bad news is that there is a critical point of no return, at least apparently, and that others are not as lucky. Some of my classmates fared very well in academia, but very poorly outside. They forgot how to think independently, and worst of all they lost their self-confidence. I know some other people that just gave up their mind, transformed into a neural message recorder, a knowledge sponge, and are now capable of memorising just about anything you throw at them, but are utterly incapable of criticising what they have learned. These are the casualties of the “education war”, for we are at war with our nature when we force ourselves to memorise something we don’t even like. And they happen because school is a massive logistic system, and most people believe it must be managed as such, leaving no room for individuality — that would be too complex to manage. Criticising constructively, I believe that “cheating” must be revised. The system must welcome some forms of cheating. For example, if a student blatantly copies another student’s test by peeking over the shoulder, that’s plain stealing and no benefit comes from it. But if two or three students work together to split the heavy curriculum between themselves and share their knowledge during the exams, that’s actually very organised and competitive team work. The kind of successful team work that companies kill for. This is another aspect I think the schooling system has to seriously improve in the short term: promote self-reliance and individuality via team work. Less individual exams, more team challenges. And more group learning. Cramming 30 to 50 kids into the same classroom in front of a teacher is not group learning; they have to be able to experience the subject freely, to discuss, to debate, to contradict, to find the logic behind it — TOGETHER. This is what takes people to finding their place in society — a place where they feel useful, not the first place where they can survive. Like Melanie says, there are some fantastic teachers out there, I had some. Unfortunately they are fighting a loosing battle against the majority of bosses, colleagues, students, and parents. This positivism of believing in the individual student and bringing out its best personal features is something that has to be institutionalized, or we will just keep making humanoid robots. Which are defective by nature, in that role. Some of the “alternative” northern european and north-american schools have achieved this goal. But why are they viewed as the exception instead of an excellent example to follow? Because of logistics. It is far easier to control a system with a simplistic rule set, than it is to care for quality.

 

My final thought is that creativity and originality have to be valued. The older a student gets, the more difficult it is for that student to offer original insights without being laughed at. After being ridiculed a few times by peers, that student will most likely keep her mouth shut the next time she has an idea. It doesn’t matter how much encouragement she gets from her teacher, she will not share it. After a while, she might even stop getting those ideas. What’s the point anyway? On the other hand, what if students got marks for original ideas or clever ways of finding solutions? What if we really looked at the work in progress and not just the final outcome?”

Michelle Vaudrin • People go to school in the hopes of getting into the university and the program of their choice. So what do American students do to get into university? They study for the SATs. I have never written the SATs, so I would like to know the following: Does the SAT have a section to evaluate creativity? (If it can really be evaluated.) Does the test look at HOW the students got their answers, or is it only the end result that is looked at? As for Canadians, we have to get high grades. To get high grades, you have to give the teacher what the teacher wants. Yes, there are teachers who encourage creativity, curiosity, and spontaneous discussions. Just last week, I was teaching history/geography to grade 5 and 6 students, and we were really into the Canadian Shield and rock formation. I kept looking at my watch worried about not having enough time to finish my lesson. I found myself saying, “Ok, guys. We have to stop this discussion now. We still have all these pages to cover for today.” I felt disgusted with myself afterwards. As a teacher, I constantly feel this pressure to cover the whole government program. I also have the parents to worry about in the private sector. “What did you do in class today Johnny?” Imagine the parents’ faces when they hear, “Oh, we just looked at rocks and talked about them.” My final thought is that creativity and originality have to be valued. The older a student gets, the more difficult it is for that student to offer original insights without being laughed at. After being ridiculed a few times by peers, that student will most likely keep her mouth shut the next time she has an idea. It doesn’t matter how much encouragement she gets from her teacher, she will not share it. After a while, she might even stop getting those ideas. What’s the point anyway? On the other hand, what if students got marks for original ideas or clever ways of finding solutions? What if we really looked at the work in progress and not just the final outcome?

 

My original question was:

Can public education kill our creativity? (http://linkd.in/ehGsqy)

“Can educational frame limit us to thinking just within the “box”? Are we too much influenced by social paradigms that we cannot think outside them? http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_changing_education_paradigms.html “
Vitomir
My question to you:  What can public education do to enhance creativity?