Creativity and education

When I was a kid, I was a very quiet and lonely girl. I never liked going around playing with other children in the neighbourhood and I never made friends at school. So when the school broke up in the summer I had three months to spend doing nothing! Worse still, I had to do nothing alone… apart from the daily fighting with my older brother, of course.  So at the beginning of the summer holidays I always asked my mum to buy me some canvas and paint and I used to spend my days ‘painting’.  Thank God none of those ‘masterpieces’ survived, so my reputation is still intact, but I wish I had had the opportunity to develop some painting skills. However, no one at school encouraged it and this is where I am trying to get here.

I have just read this article at The Guardian on Eric Schmidt’s Mac Taggard lecture where we condemns the British education system for promoting the divorce between arts and science. It maybe a quite simplistic view, but generally speaking  I think he has a point here. Most primary schools in this country tend to have a very holistic approach to education, but when children enter secondary education this certainly materialises in a quite dramatic way. Children are then encouraged to focus on language and maths, with the Arts being regarded as luxury that will not take you anywhere in life. Get your GCSEs in English, Maths and a Science and you will be alright…

Long gone are the times when people used to be polymaths – when you could be a painter, a scientist, a poet and a politician, and all of these aspects of your education contributed to form you as an educated individual. Even the other day a friend of mine was really surprised by the fact that I, as an English language teacher, also had a strong interest in Metal music, liked history, painting and golf, as if these interests were incompatible. How would he react if I had told him that my favourite subject at school was biology? Not that I saying that I’m a polymath –  far from it! I’m not that pretentious. What I am trying to say is that the broader your interests, the richer your experiences and understanding of life are likely to be. The problem is that nothing in our education system, or in our society as a whole, seems to foster this.

Sir Ken Robinson gave a marvellous talk for TED about 5 years ago on creativity and education and it does resonate with some of the issues raised by the Google chairman today. Links below 🙂

Eric Schmidt’s Mac Taggard Lecture_ Text

Eric Schmid’s MacTaggard Lecture_ YouTube

Sir Ken Robinson’s TED lecture


One thought on “Creativity and education

  1. Schmidt’s comments are a bit simplistic, but nevertheless he does touch some of the heart of the problem. It isn’t simply about education and what happens in schools, it’s what happens in society, and we have become a passive, ‘bread and circuses’ kind of culture which finds it easier to deal with one person = one idea (which is shorthand, of course, for ‘one person = one work unit’). Ken Robinson’s observations are very pertinent (I refer them a lot!) but I get frustrated by educationalists who say ‘oh, we’ve known that for years …yawn’ to which the obvious question is ‘so why haven’t you done anything about it?’

    Yes, there is a sense of atrophy in our education system (not just the UK, but throughout the ‘West’ and all those who try to emulate their discredited system). Within all of us is the potential to be far more than we are – call it polymath, or Renaissance man/woman or whatever but the title is irrelevant. Like you, Chris, I have many other personalities other than being a teacher. I’m also a parent, a cook, a gardener, a musician, a photographer, a writer, a traveller, a friend, a gourmet …. my interests range from political philosophy to strategic theory, from astronomy to species dependency, from conceptual learning to creative expression … and far beyond. No, I’m not a polymath either. I’m just a human being who is awake, and I was woken up by some wonderful teachers on my way through the maze. So, full circle: inspiring teachers wake us up to become all we can be. That’s it. Simple, isn’t it? (Oh, of only it was!)

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