This is a post I originally wrote for Spin Sucks.
If you don’t know, Spin Sucks was the 2010 Readers Choice PR Blog of the Year, one of Social Media Examiner’s Top 10 Social Media Blogs for 2011 and is currently listed on the Ad Age Power 150, a ranking of the top media and marketing blogs. Whether you’re a PR professional or beginning blogger, you’ll benefit from reading the great content at the home of Gini Dietrich. Today I’m back at Spin Sucks guest posting about an entirely different topic, but please check out the original piece below …
Are schools killing creativity?
Years ago, there was a boy who spent much of his school day staring out the window, daydreaming.
To him school was like the clink. A penitentiary so void of inspiration that his imagination often left the room.
His creative spirit needed an outlet, but it was so damn stifling in there.
Kids dream big
Children are imaginative and not afraid to be wrong, but we often lose this as we grow up. Do we grow out of it or does the system drain it out of us? Innate abilities lost over time or never discovered. Passions lost.
That daydreaming boy
What was he thinking about? Ginger, Marianne, the third grade teacher I had a mad crush on. Seriously, I simply wanted out of that room. I felt confined, inhibited, and bored silly.
Factories can’t teach
Our current educational system is a product of nineteenth-century industrialism. A model with a limited focus on specific subjects, considered beneficial a long, long time ago. That place isn’t far, far away, but it sure feels like it. This tired setup works for some, but many are left to wither on the vine.
One size doesn’t fit all
Most students receive a one-size-fits-all solution, not the creative or critical thinking they need. Shouldn’t we strive to accommodate a wide range of shapes and sizes?
And boxing them in is even worse
Kids don’t learn the same way. There are different types of intelligence: Kinesthetic, musical, linguistic, spacial, etc. People excel in certain areas, but struggle in others, yet our system demands children fit into one box and learn the same subjects, the same way.
In a post on his new book, “We Are All Weird,” Seth Godin wrote, “During the age of mass (mass marketing, mass manufacturing, mass schooling, mass movements) the key was normal. Normal was important because you needed (were required) to fit into your slot.” Well, the new normal is a bit abnormal, and uncommon little shapes don’t fit into perfectly square holes. Weird is in.
But … Billy’s odd AND distracted.
Growing up in one of the most stimulating environments ever, kids have the ability to communicate with anyone, anywhere. All. The. Time. And we wonder why they’re preoccupied. If kids have difficulty we often decide there is something wrong with them, or seek to medicate. Are they ill-suited for learning or are there defects in a system that tries to box them in?
The fundamental principals of public education need to be razed and rebuilt.
Post-industrial economies rely on creativity and inventiveness. It’s imperative that The United States (and the world) have school systems designed for the twenty-first century. And with technology quickly replacing people, isn’t this more important than ever?
We often hear that jobs are going overseas, but America will always be strong because of its intellectual capital and creative spirit. Problem is, we rarely ask our students to think creatively. As Alanis Morissette would say, “Isn’t it ironic.”
So, what about solutions?
1. Shut down the assembly line.
Toss the factory model to make way for more organic and dynamic development. Foster the differences in kids and create a curriculum that brings out these unique talents.
2. Standards must go.
Of course you need core standards, but not just in math, writing and humanities. What about fundamental skills in communication, arts, software, and trades? Nothing wrong with standards, just the obsession with them.
3. School shouldn’t be a snooze-fest.
Ditch rote learning in favor of engagement. Focus on creative and critical thinking in all subjects. And cultivate inventiveness through the technology kids are so immersed in anyway.
4. Nourish spirit and passion.
Create conditions where kids can flourish.
5. Invest in great teaching and teacher development.
Just think how creative teachers could be if they weren’t so focused on standardized tests, which inhibits the genius and passion of teachers.
6. And finally, back off Tiger Mom.
Parents often steer kids away from their true talents, for a more conventional route to success. We need to broaden that spectrum.
It’s time for change
With budget cuts, the pace of bureaucracies, and resistance to change, this might not happen anytime soon. Regardless, it is time to rethink the current system, or maybe that good old American ingenuity will be a thing of the past.
Maybe a good PR campaign is in order.
Do yourself a favor and check out Sir Ken Robinson’s speech on TED.com. A brilliant and engaging speech which summarizes this topic oh so well.
Do you agree or disagree? Is this a pipe dream?
Will high-tech companies and innovators simply force these changes without government mandates?
If changes come, what about that school in inner-city Detroit, Baltimore, LA? Will innovation and technology separate the haves and have-nots even more?
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