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How has schooling limited people from becoming authentic?

Updated on March 12, 2012
Sir Ken Robinson giving his 'Bring on the learning revolution' in 2010
Sir Ken Robinson giving his 'Bring on the learning revolution' in 2010

Deceptively, in the modern world academic schooling has dissolved into what is a solely academically driven path for young people. This process of discouraging children from pursuing certain paths limits their opportunity to become creative, original and develop into their authentic selves.

Alternative or co-curricular education has even become stigmatized, as Sir Ken Robinson says “…the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not,” since the things they were good at school aren’t valued.[1] As educational life is becoming separated from real life people have fallen into a trend of following the advice of past educators. An opposing example is the Confucian teaching where effectively, “the chief emphasis is placed not on a fixed curriculum but on getting students to think deeply and to use their minds well.”[2] While schools may be equipping young people with basic facts and literacies, future situations will need them to go beyond the elementary capacities. It is not that school is invaluable; it’s simply that “…the world of work will increasingly require them to go beyond basic competencies.”[3] It is concerning that education systems overlook the value of education’s connection with creativity in the workforce.

Starting even from kindergarden, the emphasis is on an academically-strong education at the expense of creativity. This narrow view was the one that created the movement of removing aborigine children from their native communities to be educated ‘properly’. People worldwide are lacking the ability to follow their dreams and desires to become their own authentic selves. The education system needs to find a way to allow students to be themselves, to continue to explore their talents and grow, even after the exam results are published, encouraging students to be the best that they can be, for them to have their own personal authenticity. Education, “in a way, dislocates very many people from their natural talents.”[4] The Sartrean view is that in education the role of the teacher is to support freedom in the person’s awareness of themselves as a person who can make decisions.[5] The problem is that teachers are losing the ability to equip students to think for themselves, and as a result the pupil never develops the skill of challenging what is taken for granted. The current influential speaker challenging education today is English ex-teacher Sir Ken Robinson. Another man who has written various insightful novels on the topic of creativity and education is Howard Gardner. ‘He’s collated research over fifteen years of involvement in international precollegiate education.’[6] Children are not afraid of being wrong like adults are; being wrong isn’t being creative, but if a person isn’t willing to be wrong they’ll never be original. Originality or creative thinking can be defined as “the process of having original ideas that have value”[7]; this outlines how originality is derived from creativity, and that with childhood there is no fear of being wrong while creating ideas with value. The reason that this is solely in childhood is because ‘the education systems are being run with the mindset making mistakes is not valuable, as a result they are being educated out of their creative capacities.’[8] Educational systems put obstacles in the path of the developing mind.

Children should be made aware of the variety of choices in life and be supported in their decisions to follow the path to their authentic self. Due to the discouragement from teachers, parents and peers many are being driven away from these ideas and impulses. Educational choices are limited by a lack of resources in many schools. As Sir Robinson states, “we explore our talents in relation to the circumstances they help create for us.”[9] Some people are said to be born with natural talents, without the encouragement needed these talents will evaporate. An example is the story of Gillian Lynne as it describes the importance of understanding the individual. She was a fidgety child and when taken to a doctor; instead of being put on medication and being told to calm down, was directed to a dance school and grew up to be responsible for some of the greatest musical theatre productions in history and is now a multi-millionaire.[10] When signs of a person’s authentic self appear in childhood, their talents can be ignored and lost. In most cases though it is not that they are frowned upon but given lower priority in order to let academic skills flourish. Extraordinarily “…even in the students in the best schools continue to harbour misconceptions”[11], even though their academic results may stand out. The educational relevance of these results is that “evolution is not the continuous march towards perfection,”[12] more so that it is to discover mistaken ideas and exchange them for more precise ones. There are arguments from either side of education; maths and science against the arts, but there isn’t a yardstick to measuring which is more valuable. It truly depends upon the individual and what speaks to their most authentic self, and perhaps the role of the teacher is to help the student discover this.

Many teachers continue to teach using alternative methods and not with purely measurable result driven aims. Teachers who don’t teach the ‘normal’ way are frowned upon and discouraged. The cycle of creativity deterrence – which occurs when one is taught with that attitude then teaches the same way – encourages people to take the easier, less rewarding route to completion. As a result there is a shortage of people who are willing to go beyond what is expected. Children will also follow in other’s footsteps in order to seek acceptance and recognition. In April 1967 an experiment called The Third Wave was held in a classroom by teacher Ron Jones, ‘demonstrating that even democratic societies are not immune to the appeal of fascism.’[13] The demonstration proved the malleability of young minds and their determination to become a part of something when peer pressure is applied. When the experiment ended, the insightful and loved teacher was never accepted for a teaching placement by any school with the knowledge of what he had done. When the children from the class were interviewed fifty years later, they admitted that if this event had been absent in their past they would have lived their lives differently; whether it was for the better or worse cannot be determined because of the varied attitudes.[14] This shows that while creativity may be introduced and appreciated by many, others will dismiss it as an unimportant or even dangerous thing.

Education should not be “a continual march towards perfection,’[15] but should be directed at future circumstances and learning. People continue to stress the importance of creating a goal to go to university, and the absolute necessity of it. “…but not everybody needs to go, and not everybody needs to go now [after secondary education].”[16] People need to decide whether to follow their own educational desires and do what is beneficial for them; “maybe they go later, not right away.”[17] There is a strong connection between aspects of education which are most commonly used in the workforce, which is connected to the structure of universities. ‘Academic ability has really come to dominate our view of intelligence, as universities have designed their system in this image.’[18] There is a drought of original thinking in the workforce because of this, problematically; in most sectors of work a degree of creativity is required. This is endorsed by Emerson’s aphorism that; ‘Character is higher than intellect.’[19] There is a need for continual coordination of the human mind in the development of a student’s learning ability. In order to maintain this, teachers need ‘a radical renewal of their sense of responsibility and their conscience must catch up to reason.’[20] The path which education and schooling must take in the future requires the acknowledgment of what is important; that intelligences other than intellectual have value.

While in many cases young people’s talents are harboured and encouraged, academic schooling still dominates most educational systems. While many children attend dance or art schools many still continue to be stifled by a discouraging public education system and don’t continue with their passion. Many land themselves in a profession that they don’t enjoy and aren’t good at because they have drifted away from their talents and what speaks to their authentic self. The people who have the biggest influence on someone’s educational potential besides the child’s parents are their teachers. Teachers and educational systems have the potential to strip a child of their creature and authentic potential or encourage and nurture talents which may have positive outcomes for the child’s and society’s future.

[1]Sir Ken Robinson (2010) Bring on the learning revolution

[2]Gardner, Howard (1999) The Disciplined Minds, what all students should understand. Simon & Schuster, New York, p.109

[3] Gardner, ibid, p.74

[4]Sir Ken Robinson (2006) Schools Kill Creativity

[5] D'Cruz, J.V. & Hannah, Wilma (1979) Perception of excellence. The Polding Press, Melbourne. – p.438

[6]Gardner, Op.cit, p.5

[7]Sir Ken Robinson (2006) Schools Kill Creativity. Op.cit.

[8] Sir Ken Robinson (2010) Bring on the Learning revolution, Op.cit.

[9] Sir Ken Robinson (2006) Schools Kill Creativity. Op.cit.

[10] Gilliam Lynne, Wikipedia. (12th November)

[11] Gardner, Op.cit, p.74

[12] Gardner, Op.cit, p.74

[13] The Third Wave, Wikipedia. (28th October)

[14] Lesson Plan, ABC iView documentary

[15] Gardner, Op.cit, p.74

[16]Sir Ken Robinson (2006) Schools Kill Creativity. Op.cit.

[17]Sir Ken Robinson (2006) Schools Kill Creativity. Op.cit.

[18]Sir Ken Robinson (2010) Bring on the Learning revolution, Op.cit.

[19]Gardner, Op.cit, p.248

[20]Vaclav Havel, address to the President. (June 8th, 1995)


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    • molometer profile image


      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Well researched and well argued points concerning the current 'state' of education.

      I agree, not everyone 'should have' to go to university!

      I have my suspicions, that in many cases, it is a money making enterprise by the universities, rather than anything beneficial to the student.

      I am familiar with Sir Ken Robinson work and agree with his ideas. I have written a hub on some of his work too.

      Stafford Beer in the 60's made very similar points.

      Education in many countries developed to serve the needs of industry etc and stifled creativity.

      Now that industry is largely gone from developed countries, why are we left with this outdated way of doing things?

      Primarily because there are few creative people in our governments!

      Great hub voted up interesting and useful information.


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