Monday, March 16, 2015

The Absense of Creativity in the Classroom is Killing the Future

After interviewing my teacher friend from North Carolina, I realized that most of the data I was writing my research paper on was almost null and void.  Since the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, there has been a new curriculum introduced, but again, it is being hamstrung by the politicians.  Only time will tell how much has actually changed, but honestly, I doubt much will.

My final paper was turned in on 12/8/14.  Its pretty long, but everyone that read it liked it, and some people who only read part of it wanted to read all of it....  As of right now (as I write this) I honestly don't know what grade I got, or the comments on it.  Hopefully I'll get it back from my teacher when I see her in the hallways.

Anyways, I hope you enjoy my final paper in English 1113.


ENGL 1113
8 December 2014
The Absence of Creativity in the Classroom is Killing the Future
            For years now mass media has been inundated with this simple fact: Education is broken.  It has been put into brilliant words by the late comedian George Carlin, “There is a reason that education sucks.  And it’s the same reason that it will never ever, ever be fixed.  It’s never going to get any better.  Don’t look for it.  Be happy with what you got.  Because the owners of the country don’t want that.”  This sounds vitriol but many common citizens have realized this exact, same thing.  He goes on to elaborate that these ‘owners of the country’ do not want a population capable of critical thinking, they want obedient workers.  People just smart enough to run machines and do the paperwork, yet dumb enough to accept what is truly going on (Carlin).
            Even though this is a very sad way to look at the situation there are many experts in the field that add validity to what Mr. Carlin is saying.  Some point at the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, with its national focus on test scores, which led to teachers teaching not much more than test answers (Kline).  Others point out that the problem lies far deeper.  “Now our education system is predicated on the idea of academic ability. And there's a reason. The whole system was invented -- around the world, there were no public systems of education, really, before the 19th century. They all came into being to meet the needs of industrialism” (Robinson, How Schools Kill Creativity).
            Sir Ken Robinson is an international advisor on education in the arts and his argument seems to hold the most weight out of anyone’s.  In many ways he has pointed out that creativity is something that everyone is born with.  In one story he tells, he speaks about a child that was in a play, and did not know his line.  His line was ‘frankincense’ but the child said, “Frank sent this.”  In the story he points out, not only that the child had the creativity to at least come up with something, the child also had the imagination to at least say something (Robinson, How Schools Kill Creativity).  The number one thing on a list of how to discourage creative thinking states that one has to ingrain the idea that there is only one correct way to answer every question, make sure that students answer tests with the precise answer they were given in class, and tolerate no deviations.  All errors or mistakes are bad and lead only to embarrassment (Nickerson 1).
            Many a college student comes out of high school afraid of college in some way.  In classes they clam up, remaining silent, seemingly afraid to speak, even in an environment that should breed communication, because they are terrified of saying something incorrect.  Being told by a professor or teacher that there is no wrong answer seems to go against all the basic training they were taught before.  Why are students so terrified of being wrong?  What does that do to the learning process?
            If someone is not prepared to be wrong, how will they ever come up with anything original (Robinson, How Schools Kill Creativity)?  Once upon a time there was a man who knew that making the light bulb was a feasible idea.  The concept was simple enough, heat up a sliver of metal inside an enclosed environment, and bam!  You have artificial light.  The story goes that he tried anywhere between seven hundred to ten thousand different materials for his filament, sending people all over the world to collect things.  Eventually Thomas Edison supposedly succeeded, and when asked about it said something like, “I have not failed ten thousand times, I have successfully found ten thousand ways that will not work.”  No matter what form the quote takes on, or what the number in it actually is, the message is the same, one has to not be afraid to be wrong, because creativity depends on persistence.
            If creativity is so important, why is it stamped out in the path to adult hood?  It all comes down to what the educational system was originally designed for.  In the era of the industrial revolution, what was needed was an educational system would educate people enough to work in factories.  If you look at it from the right angle, school systems are just like an industrial factory, with the ringing bells, separate facilities, specialized into separate subjects.  Children are educated in batches, grouped together by their manufacture date (Robinson, Changing Education Paradigms).
            This leads to issues with the teachers as well.  The No Child Left Behind Act’s tests not only rate the students, but the teachers as well.  Many teachers have abandoned activities that help children with their creative skills to simply prepare students for this evaluative process (Baldwin 76).  With such emphasis on testing scores and preparing students for industrial life, where does that leave graduates?
            The answer is, simply, “In a tight spot.”  The job landscape of this century is becoming more and more technical.  It is hard to imagine that phasing creativity out of education is beneficial in the slightest.  Encoding a program is a tedious job, but before one starts coding, one has to be able to imagine what it would look like before you finish.  Programs are all around us in today’s society.  We call them applications, or apps, but the premise is still the same.  Every aspect of life around us was imagined up by someone before it even started to be turned into a reality.
            In the factory environment, much has become computerized, with technology creeping into every facet of the process.  Without the knowledge to truly work them, workers just get by instead of excelling at their jobs.  Just getting by hinders the production of the worker, thus slowing down the entire machine that is the factory.  If a worker had just a little more knowledge, combined with creativity, he just might see a way to make the entire process better.  Every great now and then this actually happens. 
            Why does this not happen more?  Most workers are perfectly fine with just getting by at their job.  Some do not want to stick their neck out with an idea and be wrong because of the embarrassment.  Most others have their own reasons, but that is another subject.
            In schools all over the country, at every level of academics, math has reached a near satanic level of being hated.  Many a human being has a deep hatred of the subject, but a select few love it.  They see it as a language, a universal language that describes everything eloquently.  Everything that exists can be described using mathematic principles, whereas if we wanted to describe something new in English, we’d have to make up a new word.
            The leap from seeing a bunch of numbers on a page, to seeing a bunch of numbers as a language takes a certain amount of creativity and imagination.  One has to have the brain to see the correlation, to make that leap that these set of numbers perfectly describes this thing over here.  Where one sees light rays from the sun shining through the clouds making beautiful patterns in the sky, another sees the angle the light is coming from the sun, how it is bending through the curvature of the atmosphere, and diffusing down to the earth itself.
Augustus de Morgan is quoted as saying, “The moving power of mathematical invention is not reasoning but imagination.”  Imagination comes first in all things.  Einstein is often considered the most intelligent human being to have lived, but he is quoted as saying, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  How can we have another Einstein, if we kill creativity and imagination in students before they are allowed to grow up?
Stephen Hawking is a genius on a grand level and his genius comes from his imagination, an imagination he engages with on a constant basis because of the disease that has paralyzed his body.  He imagines something that could exist, then backs it up with concrete math.  Many look up to Hawking and Einstein, knowing their genius is unrivaled.  Many even say we need more men like them.  Those closest to them call what they do an art.  Picasso is quoted as saying, “Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
            The fact that creativity is under attack is not under debate, because it is.  It is being systematically removed from the learning process so that students can do well on tests that their teachers and school systems are graded upon.  Schools should not be factories for cranking out workers for a work environment that does not exist anymore.  The entire world is advancing into a technological society that people are ill prepared for, because students do not have the ability to creatively think or the imagination to be wrong on the road to being right.
Sir Ken Robinson, in his TED talk of 2006, said many prolific things, but he said something that should resonate with anyone wanting to understand what is truly wrong with education today.  He said, “All kids have tremendous talents.  And we squander them, pretty ruthlessly.  My contention is that creativity now is as important to education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status” (Robinson, How Schools Kill Creativity).  The entirety of the human civilization is poised upon a precipice, between the past and the future.  The only way we will not stumble is by, “seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are and seeing our children for the hope that they are.  We may not see this future, but they will.  And our job is to help them make something of it” (Robinson, How Schools Kill Creativity).

Works Cited
Baldwin, Alexinia Young. "Creativity: A Look Outside the Box in Classroom." Nurturing Creativity in the Classroom. Ronald A. Bahetto and James C. Kaufman. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2010. 76. Print.
Changing Education Paradigms. By Sir Ken Robinson. Perf. Sir Ken Robinson. RSA Animate, London, UK. 16 Jun 2008. Speech.
Edison, Thomas. Thomas Edison Quotes (Disputed). n.d. Web. 3 December 2014.
Einstein, Albert. What Life Means to Einstein George Sylvester Viereck. 26 October 1929. Interview.
How Schools Kill Creativity. By Sir Ken Robinson. Perf. Sir Ken Robinson. TED2006. Febuary 2006. Speech.
Kline, Peter. Why America's Children Can't Think. Makawao: Inner Ocean Publishing, Inc., 2002. Book.
Life is Worth Losing. By George Carlin. Perf. George Carlin. Beacon Theater, New York City. 5 November 20015. Performance.
Morgan, Augustus De. Graves, Robert Perceval. The Life of Sir William Rowan Hamilton, Vol. 3. 1889. 219. Biography.
Nickerson, Raymond S. "How to Discourage Creative Thinking in the Classroom." Nurturing Creativity in the Classroom. Ronald A. Bahetto and James C. Kaufman. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2010. 1. Print.
Picasso, Pablo. Pablo Picasso Quotes. n.d. Web. 3 December 2014.

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