Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Do Schools Kill Creativity?


Sir Ken Robinson argues that we are currently a part of an educational system that perpetuates the stigmatization of mistakes. With the prominence that high stakes tests have in our classrooms, students are less willing to take risks, to go out on a limb and make a mistake. But as Robinson states, “If you are not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”

It’s only twenty minutes long. Give it a watch: Sir Ken Robinson talks on “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”

Are we are educating people out of their creativity?

I have a contradictory classroom. The first thing I hand students when they walk into my class is a syllabus that touts the need for creative and critical thinking. We talk about the need to think “outside the box,” to question what they see, what they hear, what they read; students must question how they are educated. One of the lessons I return to throughout the year is the ability to recognize shades of grey, to get out of the dichotomous black vs. white line of thinking. Especially when studying the cultures and literatures of the world, there are no easy answers when it comes to cultural beliefs, values, and ethics.

And then I have to teach them how to take a bubble test, to eliminate the wrong answer and find the right one. It is an important skill for passing the standardized state proficiency tests and achieving a high score on the SATs, which will in turn get them into a better university and potential scholarships. The way our current system is set up, students who know how take objective tests are the ones who succeed.

It is a strange contradiction. Each year I attend multiple meetings, trainings, and conferences on rethinking education to include the whole child. Current educational philosophy is predicated on Gardner’s research on multiple intelligences, that people have a variety of ways of expressing their intelligence whether it is artistically, kinesthetically, musically, logically, etc. Each year we learn about ways to incorporate and highlight these different styles of intelligence in the classroom. Teachers are using differentiated instruction techniques to help children of varying talents and intelligences demonstrate their skills. Educational specialists throw around words like formative assessment, authentic assessment, alternative assessment – all of which are at odds with the objective forms of assessment (state tests and college entrance exams) that students (and teachers) are judged on. As teachers, our educational philosophies are at odds with our nation’s educational mandates.

And our students are caught in between.

As Robinson states, “We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we are educating our children.” At the very least, our schools are inconsistent – current educational philosophy and practice is at odds with the directives of the No Child Left Behind bill. Is Robinson right, do our schools kill creativity?

Thanks to Eric at Sicheii Yazhi for pointing me to the piece by Sir Ken Robinson.
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