First, if you haven’t spent a significant amount of time on TED.com, you need to. Technology Education and Design (TED) is an annual event in California where some of the world’s leading thinkers share ideas about practically everything. All of these talks are available for free online.
One particularly riveting and hilarious TED talk (watch here) was given by Sir Ken Robinson on the topic of how schools kill creativity. Robinson argues that public education systems were designed at the dawn of the industrial revolution and governments structured the curriculum to meet the rapidly growing needs of the industrial system. This way of thinking about the purpose of education is still with us today, as evidenced by the consistent hierarchy of priorities in public education; math and languages at the top with music, art, and dance at the bottom. In other words, the skills most useful and marketable are the ones that are prioritized and rewarded at the expense of more creative pursuits.
Robinson goes on to say that in our rapidly changing world, creativity is as important as literacy and ought to be treated that way by our institutions. He states that all children are born artists and are relentlessly educated out of their creativity. Robinson asserts that if you are afraid of being wrong, you cannot come up with an original idea, which is the most basic component of creativity. Our current system is built on the stigmatization of mistakes, thus slowly deteriorating our willingness and ability to think creatively. I prefer a “fail often, fail early” approach.
I think Robinson is correct on two big points: 1) kids are typically not rewarded for creative endeavors early on and 2) the current education system is designed to churn out middle managers in major corporations. I have no problem with corporations as such, they are perfectly appropriate vehicles for doing business. What I am not sure of is whether our schools should be categorically designed and structured to meet the needs of industry.
What do you think? Do we need to seriously rethink the aims of education and institutionalize new priorities? Should we treat creativity as seriously as we do literacy?