“My contention is that all kids have tremendous talent, and we squander them pretty ruthlessly.”
So begins Ken Robinson’s fascinating TED talk on how schools kill creativity.
He explains that we know 3 things about intelligence:
1. It’s diverse: ”We think about the world in all the ways that we experience it. We think visually, with sound, kinesthetically, we think in abstract terms, we think in movement.”
Everyone of us experiences the world in very different ways. I mean, we don’t even see colour the same. Greg, my partner, is a filmmaker and screen-writer, and although I also fancy myself a story-teller, I don’t know how to tell stories in the same way that he knows how to tell stories. He sees stories through a series of pictures. When he envisions a film, he thinks of the shots. He thinks of the pictures that tell the stories. I am much more literary when it comes to story telling. I think of a story in terms of internal dialogue. I love stories that take place mostly inside of a character’s head. Where you get to listen to all of their thoughts and come to appreciate the flawed nature of their thinking. I mean, I’m reading “David Copperfield” right now by Charles Dickens.
So, when it comes to story telling, there’s so much diversity. How boring would it be if everyone thought about things in the same way, and yet that is what they try to do in schools.
2. It’s dynamic: ”intelligence is wonderfully interactive.” Intelligence isn’t just one thing. It’s collaborative within yourself and outside. It would be enormously difficult to be creative locked inside of a white room. You need to use all of your senses. I get my best ideas when I’m walking around in nature, listening to conversations, showering, reading a good book that is completely unrelated to anything I’m working on. Creativity comes with looking at ideas that are already in existence and expanding on them. Bringing your own unique something to it. You can only do this by living and, more importantly, by making mistakes.
“Kids will take a chance, because they’re not afraid of being wrong. Now I’m not saying that being wrong is the same as being creative. But I do know that unless you’re prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. And by the time they [kids] get to be adults that they have lost that capacity. The reason for this is that we stigmatize mistakes. And now we’re running educational facilities where mistakes are the worst things you can make. And so we’re educating people out of their creative capacities.”
3. It’s distinct. Every single person is different. The word distinct is defined as: recognizably different in nature from something else of a similar type. If you turn on a Tarantino film, you know within 5 minutes that it’s distinctly his. The same can be said for anything creative. I even think that I’ve developed my own personal voice from writing in this blog for the last almost 2 years. In a way, being creative makes you feel worthwhile, special and unique. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I think that’s incredibly important.
As kids grow older we educate them from the waist up, and we focus on their heads… Our education system is predicated on academic ability. The most useful subjects for work are at the top. And you were probably steered away from subjects you liked on the grounds that you could never get a job doing that.
Academic ability has come to engulf our view of intelligence. The consequence of this is that many highly talented, brilliant people think they’re not, because the things they were actually good at at school weren’t valued, and were actually stigmatized. And I don’t think we can afford to go on that way.
When I was in elementary school I used to carry around a little notebook with me and write poetry whenever I had a spare moment. I wrote constantly because I loved it. During this time, Although I did well in school, I wasn’t an exceptional student. As I grew older I started to write less and worry about my marks more. I became obsessed with getting fantastic grades and slowly my own creative writing dissipated into nothing. By the time I reached High school I had quit writing entirely. I only focused on school. I was miserable at Math and Science and I worked myself into a frenzy trying to be a good student, even though I had absolutely no interest in these subjects.
The result, I was an exceptional student with the self-worth of a peanut. I stopped writing because I became terrified of writing something stupid or sub-par. I became obsessed with excellence and crushed my creative yearnings to sweat over a math book as I prepared for Provincials. I remember having an anxiety attack in grade 8 over a math test, and feeling (with certainty) that I was stupid. I just couldn’t wrap my head around these math problems, and what’s more… I had enormous difficulty motivating myself to spend time trying to figure it out.
I spent most of Junior High thinking there was something wrong with me, but now I believe that there truly is something wrong with the system. I was doing things right in elementary school and it is only now that I’ve started to realize that I actually only need to return to the intelligence that I had as a 3rd grade student.
“Picasso said this, he said: Children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.”
In the spirit of these TED talks, these are certainly some ideas worth spreading.