TULSA, Okla., March 14, 2015 — As a student moves into middle school, his or her creative mind starts to become more like a factory assembly line, processing information and not asking questions. This is largely due to the widespread move toward constant state testing and data gathering and decades of teacher-to-student instruction where the teacher talks and students listen without having to think on their own.
In essence, school is an environment where the student must do as instructed with no questions asked. Sir Ken Robinson’s Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Talk entitled “How Schools Kill Creativity” makes a strong point about how students lose their creativity once they get older, while schools do so as well by eliminating from the curriculum those subjects rooted in creativity such as art, music, dancing and theater.
There is no need to do away with creativity, especially in light of our increasingly complex global society. Every day there are fresh and ongoing challenges to confront such as crime, healthcare and climate issues in both modern and third world countries.
A few weeks ago I was involved in an activity with students through “The Innographer” website. The idea behind this activity was an effort to motivate students to get creative about forming and developing a business based on their own ideas, no matter how crazy that business might seem.
It took a while to get the students thinking creatively because they had not been asked before to come up with an idea of their own that could solve a given problem. The students kept talking about how they couldn’t think of anything. Eventually they did, but I had to methodically flush ideas out of their minds by having them think of their favorite things to do or discuss things that bothered them to the point where they wanted them to be fixed immediately.
I realized that it’s not their own fault that they’re mired in this intellectual state. Rather, it’s largely the fault of schools and a national educational mindset that fails its students early and often. Schools need to start letting go of the factory mindset and let the students once again become accustomed to creative thinking and problem solving in the classroom.
We no longer live in a society where the average employee works on an assembly line for 40 years at the same company. True, companies try to keep vestiges of the assembly line system going with rows of employee cubicles and top down management approaches.
But the millennial generation is standing up and becoming vocal about this kind of attitude, demonstrating their opinion by frequently switching jobs when not happy, or by hanging in and pushing hard to change the culture of the company.
Even today in what remains a flat economy in spite of government claims to the contrary, companies that don’t adapt to change still end up going away quietly for the most part: e.g., Montgomery Ward, and more recently, RadioShack. Genuinely creative thinking might have rescued these and many companies from the death spiral that eventually overcame them.
Thinking creatively doesn’t have to face resistance at schools. Instead, the schools and the educational system need to understand why a lack of creativity in thinking and doing eventually results in a lack of competitiveness and business initiatives just understanding from schools.
Students want to be creative and have the energy for it. To exploit this positive and all-too-human tendency, schools should implement coursework centered on innovation and creativity as a normal, expected and required part of the curriculum and not as an after-school activity as is currently most often the case.
The drive to think creatively shouldn’t have to stop in grade school. Today, society is actively changing the way it solves problems, spurred on by both creativity and technology. It’s now time for the counter-productive assembly line mentality slowly fade away from schools as well.
Schools shouldn’t exist to limit the creative activities of students up to the brief pre-educational period that precedes grade school. Let students think creatively because the next Facebook could be just one idea away.