Three Ways to Prevent School From Killing Your Creativity

How long before schools teach our kids how to thrive in this new world, and not sputter in it?

The Post Industrial Revolution is here: the economy is undergoing another powerful change. And traditional education is hindering its students from capitalizing on this opportunity. It’s time to stop fretting about academia and embrace creativity.

The problem with traditional education is that students are trained to fit in to the corporate world. Students are taught to get better at consuming information and memorizing facts. There’s an obsession with getting the right answer. As a result, this rigid model of education kills creativity.

The academic model of education runs counter to the demands of our current society. Thirty years ago it made sense to shun the arts and choose a realistic, tangible career. A University grad found it easier to give up her dream of painting; her degree landed her a stable job with a loyal company.

The corporate world took good care of everyone—they happily paid into your pension year after year. This was hard, even irrational, for anyone to turn down.

Ten, twenty years ago, University degrees were more valuable. After graduation, you didn’t have to scramble to find a job. In most cases, the degree got you the job.

But this traditional, factory-centered model is dying off. Today, even straight-A students are finding it hard to get work after University.

Suddenly degrees aren’t worth anything. Isn’t that true? When I was a student, if you had a degree, you had a job. If you didn’t have a job, it’s because you didn’t want one.

Sir Ken Robinson

Instead of cramming to finish a company report by noon, most grads are lazing on the couch eating a bowl of fruit-loops and watching Maury Povich.

There is a major paradigm shift happening right now. Our economy is gloomy. The industrial factories and mega corporations are wallowing.

The rise of the Internet has leveled the playing field. The power centers of the world are breaking up.

Any person is qualified to start her own blog, or write her own book, or share her own music. And she can do all this without dealing with money-hungry gatekeepers, without needing permission from a boss or a giant corporation.

The industrial age, the one that started with the industrial revolution, is fading away. It is no longer the growth engine of the economy and it seems absurd to imagine that great pay for replaceable work is on the horizon…

…When everyone has a laptop and connection to the world, then everyone owns a factory. Instead of coming together physically, we have the ability to come together virtually, to earn attention, to connect labor and resources, to deliver value.

—Seth Godin (entrepreneur, author, blogger).

The world is changing fast. And Education needs to adapt. But how long will it take before schools teach our kids how to thrive in this new world, instead of sending them out there to sputter in it?

Here are 3 strategies to prevent school from killing creativity:

1. Focus more on your portfolio, instead of your resume.

Not to say that work experience doesn’t matter, but companies are more interested in your work, not who you worked for. Gaining real world experience is a valuable asset.

2. Develop lateral thinking.

Even if you study mundane subjects, you can always be creative with your knowledge. Look for gaps in a domain—this is where you can be inventive and original. Let any subject inspire you. For example, an interesting theory you learned in philosophy inspires an idea for a compelling novel. Don’t be afraid to connect these two opposing fields together. Often, that’s what creative people do.

3. Don’t be afraid to fail.

Students are trained to sniff out the correct answer at all costs, and are rewarded accordingly. But this is the surest way to kill creativity.  Doing something original involves stepping into unknown territory. Sometimes you’re going to be wrong. Your music will suck. Your writing will be criticized. Your art will be misunderstood.

This is unavoidable. But if you’re prepared to fail, your fear disappears and your capacity to take risks increases. Only then will you have a real chance to create something people care about.



Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk

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