Seven Manners Through Which Schools Are Killing Creativity

Originally published on The Huffington Post

Ken Robinson’s TED talk “How Schools Kill Creativity” has been viewed millions of times and seems to have been the spark for an education revolution.

And yet, our education system is still broken…. The problem is that the change being suggested today is just so radical that too many educators end up changing nothing about their teaching style. Perhaps we are being a bit too optimistic by trying to “fundamentally” change the education system. Perhaps a grassroots movement to transform education will not happen in the near future. Many times, trying to fix small changes will lead to the most success. Here are some easily fixable manners through which schools are killing creativity.

1) Forcing students to ask to go to the bathroom

On the most basic level, think about how departmental high school is. Students have to ask to go to the restroom. Then the day they graduate, suddenly they are asked to live alone, pay off huge college loans, and feed themselves…. Most definitely there is a problem.

If you treat 18 year olds like children, make them stand in single-file lines, and punish them for expressing certain religious views, how can you expect them to put in intrinsic efforts to school?

Creative Environment at Google

Rather why not create a lesser version of environment of Google’s offices. Creative. Innovative. Of course, there will need to be more limitations than at Google–high school students are intrinsically less mature–but anything is better than the governmental nature of high school today.

2) Having a strict homework policy

Remember when you had to read 40 pages of The Great Gatsby on Tuesday, then take a quiz, then read another 40 pages on Wednesday, and then take another quiz…? If you fall behind even by 10 pages by the end of the week, you may accumulate 100 pages to read; and by then, reading is more of a chore than a delight.

Now, not every school utilizes this method, but enough do that it merits addressing. Rather, why not create a system where students have to read 100 pages–at their pleasure–after which there will be repercussions. This will allow students to truly input all their effort into the reading.

3) Teaching students to memorize rather than understand concepts

Everyone has heard the question: “when will I ever need this again?” Over and over, someone asks, and the teacher simply says, “I don’t know.” The only reason we still do force students to memorize those formulas is because a self-proclaimed-expert sometime in the past said that it is a good idea–without any reason–and everybody accepted it.

Instead, what we should be teaching students (especially in mathematics, biology, and history) is how to actively problem solve, by using activities such as inquiry labs. Not only would students be able to use these skills in their future jobs, but they will also be able to utilize them in everyday activities–such as finding the most efficient method to wiring the house.

4) Teaching Shakespeare instead of more contemporary authors

Why do we teach Shakespeare instead of teaching writing that more students can intrinsically relate to? Reading Shakespeare is a skill than not many students will use in the future; on the other hand, being able to critically read and think about modern press is an incredibly important skill in our world. Read my previous post, “Why Do We Force Our Students to Read Shakespeare” for more discussion.

5) Ruining a classic book by over-analyzing it

My physics teacher told me that he just reread The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and that he “actually” liked it. WHAT?. You cannot actually like classics can you? They’re the tools schools use to torture us, right? Right?

And truly, classics are great works. They are deep, thought-provoking, and fundamentally human books exploring the human condition. But over-analyzing Frankenstein, and being lectured excessively about the complex sentence structure doesn’t really teach students anything. All it does is invoke negative connotations about literature–which could easily be replaced with intellectual debate–into their heads.

6) Not teaching students how to program

Computer science is an extremely vital skill to know in our modern world; knowing how to program literally gives you the super power of being able to create something in your room and then see thousands of people all over the world use and benefit from it. Moreover, it teaches problem solving skills like no other. And yet, very few schools actually actively teach their students computer science. Why is that? Read my article “Should We Require Compter Science Classes” for more reasons regarding why every high school student should know how to program.

7) Teaching history rather than more practical social studies

I’ve learned about the Civil War eight times since kindergarten. I know the Civil War. I know the dates. The generals. The events. I can tell you the whole story behind the war. But who cares? Quite honestly, no one.

Sure, we should have an idea of our national and international heritage. But every year throughout secondary school? Memorizing a bunch of facts doesn’t really help anyone.

What should be emphasized more though are the social sciences. Economics. Psychology. Finance. Not only are these more practical, but they will also help students who don’t attend college in the work force. Let me ask you: is it more important to know how to mortgage a home or know when the Defenestration of Prague occurred?

Sure the event was important….But how many of you actually know what it was about?

At the end of the day, the verdict is obvious: schools are killing creativity. But rather than just sharing articles and liking pages, let’s actually do something about it; educators, implement some of these ideas, and comment on how they go. Let’s bring on the education revolution, together!

Posted on February 9, 2015 in Education, Education Reform

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About the Author

Rajat Bhageria is the author of What High School Didn't Teach Me: A Recent Graduate's Perspective on How High School is Killing Creativity. Additionally, he is the founder of ThirdEye and is currently a student at UPenn. Find out more about Rajat at his personal blog:
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