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Friday, January 7, 2011

Creativity in Education? Not so much

Thanks to Judah:
This week in Psychology, we watched and discussed a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson about creativity in our education system. Robinson argues that our current education system does not teach creativity in the way it should, rather teaching everyone to be university professors. In reality, very few of us will become university professors, and I completely agree that our system of educations must change. Everyone has their talents and some people do not need to learn to a test. However, in one sense Robinson is mistaken. Robinson does not acknowledge the necessity of creativity in a university professor’s life. Robinson does not communicate through his talk the idea that in order to innovate and in order to make the many scientific discoveries that those university professors make, the professors must be creative. The computer wasn’t invented by sticking to the same old ideas. Einstein would never have discovered relativity if he hadn’t been creative enough to think about what it would be like to travel at the speed of light. I doubt Robinsons disagrees with me, however in his talk he does not discuss this idea.

Robinson claims that, “All children are born artists, the problem is to remain artists as we grow up." I completely agree and I believe that we need to build that creativity instead of diminishing it. Parents have a tendency to tell kids to give up their dreams at early ages because they’re not realistic. I think as a society we need to change this mentality. If you’re good at dancing, then dance. If you’re good at singing, sing. This does not mean that if you’re good at math, you shouldn’t pursue it because it’s “not creative” (though I would argue it requires as much creativity as any other subject). Every subject is equally important. In a society where we have nearly 7 billion people, not everyone has to be the same. In 1000 years will people look back on us for only our technological advancements or will they look back on us for our art, music, theatre… etc. I think, as I’m sure Sir Ken Robinson does, that we have the potential to be remembered for all of that, and it will require a fundamental revolution in the way we value occupations and achievements.

Now what does this have to do with physics? I think that scientists also do not stress creativity in the way that they should. Just as Einstein used his imagination to become Time Magazine’s Man of the Century, so must we all. Scientists in any established field have thought of everything inside of the box. In order to make novel discoveries one must think outside of it. Science teachers today do not emphasize the importance of imagination. Discoveries in science align perfectly with Robinson’s definition of creativity, “the process of having original ideas that have value.” The problem with today’s students is that they see the “create” part of the definition, but don’t see what’s necessary to get there. No innovation has ever been made without a failed attempt beforehand. Everyone makes mistakes. Do you think Thomas Edison invented the light bulb on his first try? No, but he kept at it and got it right. Students today see everything as a grade where they have to get it right the first time. We need to radically change our system to discourage this mentality or creativity will die with the current generation.

1 comment:

  1. Good thoughts, Judah. I, too, worry at some level that too many students worry so much about even individual grades on HW sets, etc. While grades matter, they are likely overblown, in part because of the NCLB law and the fact that schools are judged by a 'snapshot' test once each year. Creativity is not rewarded. Making mistakes is discouraged, as you note. You may be interested in a post about a book I read over break, about where good ideas come from. Check out

    Thanks for posting.