One of the most ironic things I read about these days is about schools attempting to teach creativity.
I am not saying that there are no creative teachers, or those who valiantly attempt this lofty task, who break the mold and sometimes ignore protocol and tradition to achieve this goal. I am saying that the traditional structure of school itself is geared towards the suppression of creativity.
Children are not uncreative to begin with, in fact, they are the most creative creatures ever. Their imagination is boundless. They know no limits. They see possibilities, not problems, in every situation. They are simply bursting with creative energy from the moment they were babies. Anybody who has had to raise children or has interacted with toddlers will attest to this.
So what happened? Why do schools now think that it is important to teach creativity? (I remember back when I was teaching high school, we teachers were made to attend a seminar on creative thinking, which turned out to be quite uncreative and forgettable as I don’t remember a single thing about it other than being there, and probably heckling the speaker).
The structure of school itself kills creativity. The child, bubbling with ideas, is now told to sit, listen to teacher and copy what she writes on the board. Anyone challenging her authority will be the object of various disciplinary measures designed to control the classroom environment. Woe to the teacher whose supervisor passes by and observes an unruly classroom.
So the artist soon learns that even if her drawings draw oohs and ahhs from her classmates, they are not worth much if she keeps failing her math quizzes. The dancer is made to sit still. The comedian is told to shut up. The dreamer is told to focus on “more important things” like grammar and the multiplication table.
For roughly 10 months out of a year, students lives are neatly organized into tiny compartments of time. The first hour is for Math, the second for Science, then English, then Social Studies, then FIlipino, then arts or music or something else. They are then tested, graded, classified and labeled according to how they perform in this narrow band of human knowledge deemed by experts as “basic”and “essential” — by what conceivable metric no one knows.
The whole system is naturally geared towards conformity, not creativity. In fact, it is a systematic drowning of creativity — which is why it is laughable that it is now seeing the need to introduce (or reintroduce) it — because it was the one that murdered creativity in the first place.
Author and self-directed education advocate, Kerry Mcdonald, says “It’s our antiquated system of forced schooling that was designed to crush creativity in the name of conformity…Young people who learn without school, or in other non-coercive learning environments, retain their natural creativity and curiosity. We don’t need to rekindle creativity; we need to stop destroying it.”
Amen to that.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.