Society educates us out of creativity

By Apsara Senaratne

As children, we immerse ourselves in the creative world. We create stories, drawings, paintings, and crude clay sculptures, but as we grow older, these simple and unrefined products of our creativity are denied the chance to develop into something more. Our imaginations are instead tamped down by society in order to provide a space for what we are told is our future.

We quickly learn that our formal education takes precedence over our creativity, and, through neglecting our imaginations, we become machinery, rather than people, invalidating the need for creativity.

During those teenage years, education becomes heavily emphasized, not for the sake of simply learning, of course, but for the sake of succeeding in obtaining a traditionally respectable occupation.

“I get discouraged by many people, especially by my family, because I am only to focus on getting a high GPA. This is because my family believes that this will get me into a prestigious college and thence provide me with a respectable job that makes a lot of money,” sophomore Alexis Villadelgado said.

Students like Villadelgado are often told that ideal occupations can only be achieved through academic prowess, rather than creativity, and thus come to recognize that only a particular set of skills in a particular set of classes is valued.

The push for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is stronger than ever; art, music, dance, and theatre are considered secondary, or even unimportant, as core subjects take priority.

“Rather than being disregarded, the arts are thought to be of secondary importance to the general objectives of the various academic programs,” visual arts teacher Harvey Cusworth said.

Through this unrelenting push for more academic classes, as well as the societal pressure to exceed expectations, creativity begins to fizzle out. As less consideration is given to the arts, and as we are taught to think logically and rationally, our imagination is not given space to grow and develop.

This is a result of society’s limited definition of intelligence; literacy and skill in mathematics are believed to be the defining factors of intelligence, and other abilities are overlooked in favor of ability purely based upon rational thought.

During the 19th century, public schools did not exist, and education focused primarily upon the skills that a child would need in order to find work. A focus upon creativity was certainly lacking, as society did not deem it a skill at the time, nor did it deem creativity a necessity for the procurement of a job.

Two centuries later, such ideas have permeated our everyday life. Children are discouraged from taking career paths that do not always lead to stable incomes and financial stability. Their own wishes, should they deviate from the norm, are scoffed at. Those who have talents outside of education-based parameters, who perhaps wish to pursue a career in art, music, or theatre, among other things, are undervalued, while those who perform well in school are excessively lauded. This results in creatively-inclined students feeling insignificant, as they associate their perceived lower status with a lack of intelligence.

In a TED talk titled “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” education expert Sir Ken Robinson states that, “Many creative, brilliant, talented people think they’re not, because everything they weren’t good at during school wasn’t valued, or was stigmatized.”

This statement is especially true in the case of students who seriously consider artistic career paths, likely due to parents’ wish for their children to have what they consider realistic career aspirations, and thus their disregard for their children’s creative leanings. Grading scales, which measure a student’s academic prowess, do not take into consideration the entirety of the student’s overall development, as they tend to neglect the more creative aspects of growth.

When parents guide children away from the arts, children begin to learn what the answer is, rather than how to find it or why it is significant. As a result, children are only taught of rules and conformity, rather than innovation and discovery, thus denying them the chance to discover the more creative aspects of learning.

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