It’s not often that I get to write an article that has been brought about by watching videos for the first hour of my time in work, but when I do, it’s because I’ve been inspired. There are several topics in particular that have inspired this article and what it’s about: Reforming education for the creative mind.
So what exactly is the creative mind? The creative mind is a mind which is not one-dimensional; it’s a mind that is flexible, malleable, yet incredibly inquisitive with a distinctive set of wonder. It’s a mind that isn’t fitted to slide into a mold and it isn’t a mind that performs at a set standard wanted by academia. The creative mind is the human mind and it belongs to all of us, we all have it from a very young age and at a young age we aren’t afraid to make mistakes, we aren’t afraid of repercussions and we know what we love and what we want to do. Sadly, as University Professor Sir Ken Robinson puts it in the above video: “We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it.”
This is apparent through which subjects are prioritized increasingly as a child grows into a teen; English, Math, Languages. Which although are certainly important in their own right and open many doors for those walking these paths, are not any more important than the Arts, which are typically stigmatized and criticized as ‘unhelpful’ in society and see those practicing them, whether that’s though Painting, Sculpting, Music, Digital Art, Drama, Dance and so on, being told that they will not be able to find a job or excel in said area by teachers, lecturers, advisers, peers and even parents.
However, in a growing world that is rapidly going digital, it’s become increasingly apparent that these claims are null and void. It’s become increasingly apparent that those who try can progress into mastery and can flourish in their beloved field. It’s become increasingly apparent that we can. In a digital age, we see the internet make stars out of individuals; Youtubers making videos, Twitch users livestreaming and Social Media artists. These individuals, if they produce content attractive enough to their viewers, can garner hundreds of thousands, even millions of views, and can make a comfortable living without having to be recognized or even heard of in academia or any sort of professional field. So what does this say about education?
- Schools kill creativity by making us afraid of making mistakes
- People told they can’t become artists, dancers, musicians by seniors
- The Internet has made artistry and creativity very possible
Over 1.2 million Americans drop out of academia before a college level every year, out of these at, least 4% are proven to be intellectually gifted, this works out to over 50,000 of the country’s top students dropping out of school and often seeing an end to their academic career and development prematurely, every year. The problem? The system. The system, like the vast majority of other academic systems around the world, has been modeled on the 19th Century Industrial Revolution: A time in the 1800s when those who spoke high-level English, those who know the Sciences, those who could speak other Languages, could work as Administrators, Engineers and Translators to further fuel the Industrial Engine. Since those days, the education system, especially in the west, has not developed further. Scarily enough, this means we are two hundred years behind on our education methods.
Children are being told day after day that they are not intelligent and will not progress through school, college and university. Many are told that they will not find work due to lack of qualifications and will have to settle for a position that they do not like, in a place they do not want to work, working for those whom they do not want to know. Even if not directly, students are told these lies through poor grades, parents evenings, warnings and ‘Must try harder’s. Why are students being told this? Because they do not fit the mold, they do not fit ‘The Average’. In his panel ‘The Myth of The Average’, Harvard Educator Todd Rose demonstrates how schools are only testing very specific aspects of human intelligence and that an ‘average’ student is supposed to emerge from each individual to fit a set pattern of learning. Of course, there’s no such thing as ‘The Average’.
So where does this lead us? We must strive to develop students in what they excel at and love doing. There are so many aspects of human intelligence that simply are not all tested, these include not just memory, as many schools still almost exclusively test on, but language, knowledge, reading, vocabulary, curiosity, perception, cognitive skills, interests, critical thinking, flexible thinking and so on. By designing an ‘average’ based system to try and cater for all students, when all students have wildly varying aspects in their intelligence that only extremely rarely fit into any one area of the system, we cater for no one at all. This must be improved and we can do better as a society and as a generation.
- Over 1.2 million Americans drop out of high school each year
- 4% of these, about 50,000 dropouts, are considered mentally gifted
- This is due to a system designed around the ‘average’ student that doesn’t really fit anyone
In this writer’s opinion, we see too much emphasis put on memory skills and too little on critical thinking, too much studying and not enough thinking, and too much testing and not enough learning. If you truly want a child to develop into a student and not into a machine, you can’t go on developing them as they were during the Industrial Revolution, as we do still today, like cogs in a gear set. Furthermore, the application of technology in education is dreadful: every day we see more and more schools buying Touchpads, Laptops and IT Equipment for their students and staff, but we fail to recognize just how prominent this new technology could be due to the failure to apply it properly. Instead of being used to develop a student in all areas of intelligence, they’re most often used to develop a better memory alongside an IT proficiency, isn’t this just a waste when you could use a notepad and an old Windows 95 computer instead and achieve the same result for so much cheaper?
Teacher Paul Anderson found an incredible way to implement new technological advances via a brand new approach to the classroom. He spent his summer designing exactly what engaged his students, videogames. But these games were not on a console or on a tablet alone, oh no, these were on paper, in videos and most importantly, in the classroom system. He quickly implemented a student-centered learning environment where he took on more of a mentor role as students were able to learn to self-learn, were allowed to make mistakes and learn from them, and even were able to ‘rank up’ through their learning experiences in the form of a leveling system and a high score board. These sorts of systems are exactly what is needed in the classroom and evidence about the corresponding new form of technology in this example, videogames, is even more compelling.
Videogames have often been the target of media criticism and defamation, but provided, like everything else, games are played in moderation, the negative effects are nullified and vastly outweighed by the ocean of positive effects; sharpening eyesight, minimizing attention disorders and even encouraging social skills when being played by multiple players at once. Even in specific genres there are further positives to be gained, for instance, First Person Shooter games develop quick-yet-critical thinking and teamwork when played alongside other players, Real Time Strategy games develop resource management and multitasking, Fighter games develop better recognition of patterns and better responses to actions and Simulator games allow an individual to become better acquainted with a sport, vehicle or strategy before taking up the skill for real.
- Technology is not being used effectively in the classroom
- Why not redesign the system with something more student-centered?
- Videogames have been proven to sharpen mental skills in all areas when played in moderation
These three videos in particular help to illustrate this article’s point; Education needs to be overhauled in favor of a Creative Mind. As human beings we all have minds which develop differently due to differing environments, individuals and exposure to social stimuli and activities, but it’s commonly agreed on that the ‘fit the average’ mold does not work effectively for most students and it’s a wonder that anyone can progress with this mind-set laboriously programmed into them. Education needs to undergo a renovation with technology as the digital age not only helps students to learn but it helps many become artists whom are rewarded for their efforts. All in all, I think the biggest changes need to come not from the students, not from the parents, not even from the teachers or the technology, but the system. The system itself needs to change.
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