Do schools kill creativity?

Sir Ken Robinson works with governments, education systems, international agencies, global corporations and some of the world’s leading cultural organizations to unlock the creative energy of people and organizations. He has led national and international projects on creative and cultural education in the UK, Europe, Asia and the United States. The embodiment of the prestigious TED Conference and its commitment to spreading new ideas, Sir Ken Robinson is the most watched speaker in TED’s history. His 2006 talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity” has been viewed online over 40 million times and seen by an estimated 350 million people in 160 countries.

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Mr. Robinson’s 2006 TED Talk named “Do schools kill creativity?” starts off with him naming the three themes discussed in the TED conference held in Monterey, California, he states that these three things are very relevant to his topic. The three themes are : i) extraordinary evidence of human creativity; ii) absolutely no idea of the future and unpredictability; iii) extraordinary capacities of children. While stating these themes he also mentions that he has a big interest in education and so does everybody, it goes deep with people, just like religion and money. Mr. Robinson thinks that creativity in education is as important as literacy and it should be treated with the same status.

He narrates two stories that portray how kids are fearless, confident, they don’t mind taking a chance and the are not afraid of being wrong. Everyone is born fearless, back in the days we as kids were fine with making mistakes, but over the years we lose that quality of ours due to social or academic pressure as us humans stigmatize mistakes, we don’t like being wrong. But what Mr. Robinson says is that we must be prepared to be wrong, because if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with something original. We must take risks. All children are born with creativity, that’s why one can’t grow into creativity but one grows out of creativity, more like one gets educated out of creativity.

While answering the question as to why do we get educated w]out of creativity, Mr. Robinson said that when he shifted from Stratford to America, he noticed that every education system has the same hierarchy of subjects globally, maths and languages being at the top, then comes the humanities and at the bottom are the arts. He says that there is a hierarchy within the arts subjects too, topped by arts and music, with dance at the bottom. We start educating progressively from the waist up, moving on to focusing on only the head and then only one side of the head.

He says that if observed properly, the whole point of the education system is to produce more people who can educate – the university professors. He makes a funny remark on how university professors are disembodied and use only their heads, they use their bodies only to transport their heads from one place to another. He states that the education system came into being to meet the needs of industrialism. The hierarchy in the education system came into being based on two concepts, them being:

  1. The most useful for work were at the top, for example, musicians, they don’t play a core part in the industries to create and manufacture, or to manage and sell, they do their own work of creating music and earning minimal profits out of it.
  2. Academic ability comes to dominate out whole view of intelligence. Education system is protracted process of preparing kids for the university entrance exams. Many creative, brilliant and talented students can’t cope up with the studies and think they are not talented and brilliant.

He also talks about the process of academic inflation and how degrees don’t matter much anymore, there is need for masters and PhD. He says we need to rethink our view of intelligence as it is diverse, dynamic and distinct. He shares the story of Gillian Lynne and how her parents took her to the doctor thinking she had a mental disorder because she couldn’t study well and how the doctor understood her love for dancing and told her mother that she was made for dancing, and with that one statement of the doctor she started dance school and became one of the most well known choreographers. Lastly he said that the only hope for the future is to adopt a new concept of human ecology, one in which we start to reconstitute and redefine our conception of  the richness of human capacity. 



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