Does school kill creativity? This is a long-standing question raised by many parents who fear that schools are focusing too much on teaching non-creative subjects, such as math, language and literature, or science. ‘environment.
Many parents feel that their children, potential artists, see their skills wasted because there is hardly any music or art in their school curricula. School is seen as a place where they are squared off, where all kinds of imagination are eliminated, they are ready to work in non-creative jobs.
What is true about these statements? Is creativity fatally injured in school? Can you be creative in science? These are all questions that we will be discussing, all related to the idea of whether or not school kills creativity.
Is it true that school destroys creativity?
The question of whether school kills creativity is as old as compulsory education itself. Although this topic has been the subject of much debate for some time, it is in recent years that it has acquired particular importance.
In part, one of the big ones that has become popular is the opinion that the school ends up with the creativity of the little ones is Sir Ken Robinson, an educator who gave a talk a few years ago at TED talks, the famous lecture series, in which he said that yes, the school kills creativity.
Robinson said creativity is not cultivated in schools. that teaches boys and girls not to drop out. It is like giving strength to those who believe in the typical image shared in the networks of a teacher by taking scissors and using it to cut the thoughts of his students, passing from square to square. the sandwich that represents him. The school cuts the thought, the grid.
But what is true about this statement? Without a doubt, Mr. Robinson is a person who has knowledge of the subject, since he is an educator. However, once he opened he published his lecture, there weren’t a few, also with in-depth knowledge of the matter, who said otherwise. Critics of Robinson believed that school not only didn’t kill creativity, it even encouraged it, but in ways that at first didn’t seem so uniquely creative.
For Ken Robinson, creativity is something that should be encouraged as another skill, with the same status as literacy. Others, like Tim Leunig, science adviser to the UK Department of Education, who also lectured on the TEDx conference, took the opposite view. For Leunig, true creativity lies in knowledge, which is acquired through reading and writing.. To be creative, you must first know how to do the basics. Next comes originality.
How does the way we define creativity influence us?
One of the most striking things about Robinson and Leunig’s TED talks is not only their opposing stance, but also how they define what creativity is. For Ken Robinson, creativity has to do with imagination, self-expression and divergent thinking.
In contrast, Leunig explains that for him creativity shows how, through the use of logic and the application of scientific principles, the knowledge acquired can be concentrated and used to create. completely innovative new solutions to old problems.
Whereas Robinson believes that creativity is an alternative to literacy, to the acquisition of literacy, and that it usually manifests itself in students with academic problems. Robinson’s point of view on creativity would coincide with the non-cognitive intelligences of Howard Gardner’s model, such as kinetics or musico-auditory.
For Leunig, creativity is a cognitive competence that is nourished by the acquisition of specific knowledge, knowledge to which a person with severe reading problems or directly illiterate would not have access.
For Robinson, creativity is a natural thing, something that people are born with. In contrast, Leunig believes that he is more dependent on acquiring knowledge in life, which can be learned and practiced.
Definitions of what creativity means influence whether or not school kills this skill. In reality, these conceptions of creativity illustrate how foolish it is to speak of creativity in abstract terms, as if the term meant the same to everyone. As the visions of Robinson and Leunig show, the idea of creativity is something that varies enormously from person to person, even between educational professionals like these two experts.
Sciences are creative
When we talk about creativity in school, the first thing we think of is art and music. Painting is creative, playing the flute is creative, but … What about making a model of the human body for biology? What do you need to mix jars in the chemistry lab? And invent them to solve a math problem? We find it difficult to associate the idea of creativity with science subjects, although all scientific advances are in one way or another the product of creativity. And, of course, language and literature subjects can greatly encourage this skill.
Creativity varies from subject to subject. We can understand this better if we compare it to another competition that something similar has happened. Critical thinking is a very important skill in most disciplines, and if we ask an expert what he wants, we are likely to find similarities among historians, mathematicians, biologists, and writers. They seem to refer to the same thing, describing the same thing. But the truth is, it isn’t. Criticizing history is not the same as criticizing mathematics, biology, or classical literature..
The same goes for being creative. Creativity is not a single thing, but a collection of processes which, although similar, are different. Creativity in math is not the same as creativity in the visual arts. A student who decides to be creative in mathematics by deciding that 2 + 2 = 3 is not really creative, but simply makes up an outcome and acts against the nature of the discipline. On the other hand, it is creative to break if a new method of solving a mathematical statement is invented.
Creativity can be used in any subject, but it must be taught. Absolutely any school subject can be used to encourage creativity, however students cannot be expected to be creative by magic. It is necessary to teach this skill, which is not allowed, in a transversal way, in the same way that if the students have to make use of critical thinking in a certain subject, it will be necessary to teach how to do it.
The effect of formal education on creativity
But … does school kill creativity or not? The short answer is no, although it should be understood that there is enough work to be done on this skill in the school curriculum. As we have mentioned, the definition of what creativity is has influenced the perception of how this skill is encouraged among students.
If one thinks that being creative is painting or playing an instrument, as the school curriculum focuses on the acquisition of more scientific and literary skills, it is easy to believe that creativity is not. encouraged. But the truth is, it can be learned in virtually any subject. Same it can go the other way, that more traditionally creative materials such as music, crafts or visual arts do not promote this quality..
For example, if the subject of art is asked of boys and girls who limit themselves to painting a picture identical to that of a model or that they are asked in music to play a score to the letter, this is no It’s not to foster creativity itself. However, as we have mentioned, these can be the first steps so that students, once they have learned to paint and play an instrument, can later compose their own creations.
Two points can be drawn from the whole debate about whether school kills creativity. The first is that, starting from the fact that there will be more creative children than others, the maximum number of children should have the opportunity to develop and realize their Creative potential. Therefore, schools should provide students with a curriculum that incorporates so-called creative subjects as compulsory subjects, to give the opportunity to those who are more creative in the visual arts to put their skills into practice.
The second point is that true creativity must be incorporated and cultivated throughout the program. As we mentioned, creativity actually refers to a set of similar but different processes. It can manifest itself in many ways and it is the task of every teacher in each subject to find out how.
When does he kill her …
While, as we mentioned, school doesn’t kill creativity in most cases, there are situations that can limit it. There are situations that are repeated very often in schools that can really limit creativity, even if it goes unnoticed even by the teachers themselves.
One of the ways that some research seems to limit creativity the most is that we need to focus excessively on the importance of evaluation.
As you might think, children want to do as well as possible and also want to be praised for their work. If the subject teacher prioritizes assessment and the end result over the whole mental process to get there, the children in the class will be less likely to take risks. Basically, they will want to get a good grade.
Another way to limit creativity is offering very structured activities. When a teacher provides very specific, step-by-step instructions and very specific examples, students in the class are more likely to follow their example as closely as possible. They are less likely to create something new that looks different, something that is the complete opposite of being imaginative and creative.
Highlight and criticize mistakes this is another way in which creativity is limited, in this case in a way that can even be traumatic for some students who fear that doing badly is synonymous with failure. When the teacher is only pointing out a student’s mistakes, especially if he is doing it in front of his classmates, children will feel very embarrassed. Because it will be a very negative experience, boys will be less likely to take risks with alternative paths. They will associate creativity and innovation with the shame of others.
Another way creativity can be deadly in schools, whether in biology or art, is by monitoring student progress. Teachers need to give their students guidance and structure, but it is also important that boys have the opportunity to take an active role in their own education and to be independent. Excessive control over what they do and taking them by the hand in virtually any task they perform limits students’ creativity.
- Robinson, K. (2007) Ken Robinson says that schools kill creativity.
- Leunig, T. (2016) Why real creativity is based on knowledge: Tim Leunig. TEDxWhitehall.
- Karwowski, M. (2021). School doesn’t kill creativity. European psychologist. 0 (0).