Do Schools Kill Creativity?


"Education systems around the world have the same hierarchy with math first, then the languages, humanities, and last is the Arts. And in pretty much every system, there's a hierarchy within the arts. Art and music are given a higher status than drama and dance. There isn't an education system on the planet to teach his children dance every day like they do mathematics. Why? Why not?

 Because as children grow up we educate them progressively from the waist up, and then we focus on their heads. If you ask what is the education system for, you might conclude it's to produce university professors! Certainly nothing wrong with university professors, I once was one, but we certainly shouldn't hold them up as the high-water mark of human achievement. But there's something curious about them, they live in their heads. They are disembodied in a literal way. I look upon their body as a form of transport for their heads.

 Our education system is based on the idea of academic ability. The reason is they all came into being to meet the needs of industrialism, so their hierarchies are built on two things. Number one, the most useful subjects for work are at the top. So you were scared away from things you liked as a child on the grounds that you would never get a job doing that. Don't do music, don't do art. Profoundly mistaken.

Second is academic ability, which has come to dominate our view of intelligence, because the university has designed the system in their image. The consequence is that highly talented, brilliant, creative people, think they're not. Because the things children were good at was de-valued or actually stigmatized. Now kids with degrees are often heading home to carry on playing video games.

 We can't afford to go on that way, because the whole structure of education is shifting beneath our feet. We need to radically rethink our view of intelligence. We know three things about intelligence. One, it's diverse. Think about the world and all the ways that we experience it. We think visually, we think in sound, we think kinesthetically. We think in abstract terms, we think in movement.

 Secondly, intelligence is dynamic. If you look at the interactions of a human brain, intelligence is wonderfully interactive. The brain isn't divided into compartments. In fact creative, original ideas that have value more often than not come about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things. The third thing about intelligence is its distinct.

 There was a little girl who was having trouble in school and her mother took her to see a specialist. She told him how she was disrupting the class, her homework was always late, and on and on. The doctor said I need to speak with your mother outside for a moment, we'll be right back. He turned the radio on and after they left the room he stopped and looked back and she was  dancing. The doctor said, you see that? She doesn't have a problem with school, she's a dancer.

So our mother took her to a dance school in it was wonderful. It was full of people like her who couldn't sit still and had to move to think.  She went on to become a great ballet dancer and choreographer. She had her own successful ballet troupe, then met Andrew Lloyd Webber and did Cats and Phantom of the Opera, and became a millionaire. Another specialist might have told her to calm down, and would have put her on medication. 

Our only hope for the future is to adopt a new concept of human psychology, one in which we start to reconstitute our concept of the richness of human capacity. Our education has mined our minds in the way we strip mine the earth for a particular commodity. And for the future it won't serve us. We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which were educating our children.

What TED celebrates is the gift of the human imagination. We have to be careful now we use this gift wisely, that we avert some of the cataclysmic scenarios we're all talking about. The only way we'll do it is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are, and seeing our children for the hope that they are. And our task is to educate their whole being, so they can face this challenging, unknown, but possibly bright future."  Sir Ken Robinson


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