Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Creativity - a Ted talk by Ken Robinson

So this Ted Talk is moving, funny and really very important. Sir Ken Robinson talks about schools and what we value and how we teach our children to be afraid to make mistakes and how we kill their creativity. It's moving and powerful and even if you don't have kids I'm betting we all can relate to what he's talking about. Have a look, it's really worth it.

How do you encourage creativity?
Listening to kids and encouraging their interests, of course. Counteracting at least some of the messages they carry home about what's cool and what's a success and failure from school is also important, I think. Parents now were kids who went through the same system of squashing original, troublesome thought, though, and it's hard to break out of one's own programming to encourage wild creativity in your kids, especially when it gets you calls from the principal's office because your kid just has to get up and dance around the room when she's thinking, or draws wickedly rude, funny caricatures of his teacher or corrects the teacher's bad spelling in front of the class or yells at a mean kid who won't stop bullying a friend or bursts spontaneously into a loud song about Mr. Data's cat Spot during quiet time or writes a story about pioneers and kills off the main character at the end and makes the teacher and principal worried about why he didn't write a happy ending and he tells them it just had to end that way because the characters demanded it or...

So what is a solution for kids?

Well, I had a long rant about the school system here and the horrible budget cuts and the under-appreciated teachers and how parents are expected to make up the budget shortfall and what about the promise of free quality public education in this country of opportunity and all that. It's a fact that kids from lower economic levels get fewer opportunities than rich kids. It'd be so great if their schools could have the resources to encourage them, even if their parents don't have the means to pay for music or dance lessons and sports and all that. It's really crazy-making for a parent with limited resources, and when it comes right down to it, there are more and more of us in that boat than before.

But. Ranting here won't change it, won't fix it. Listening to the kids, encouraging them in whatever excites them and grabs their interest, that helps no matter what their circumstances may be. And it may not be much, it may not be enough, but it's better than nothing.


  1. One of the things I have been thinking lately, is that is not enough to revamp how we teach kids, how we get them to be creative and yet survive in this system, but that we need to reassess how we treat ourselves, as adults.

    If we, as adults, don't honor our *own* creativity, respect it in others and encourage it in ourselves and each other, how can our kids be expected to have any defense against the "sit down, shut up, don't stand out, do what you are told" mentality?

    Especially as women, in a world where what women do as outlets for that creativity is, more often than not, disparaged as "just crafting", we need to support our own creativity and encourage *our* peers, to model what we want kids to do. They are little mimics, after all. If we don't show them that being creative, in a wide variety of expressive forms, is to be treasured and encouraged, how will they know to value it in themselves?

    I am consistently grateful the my nephews are being taught to value being creative, now I just need to value it myself.

  2. Great post.... Have you read Orbiting the Giant Hairball. by Gordon MacKenzie... Great book along these same lines making the point that education trains the creativity out of students. Thanks for this post.