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How education threatens creativity …


Ken Robinson speaks on the importance of creativity and how closely it depends on our freedom to make mistakes. Hmmm … to put it more accurately – Sir Ken Robinson explains how our modern education system represses creative thought by discouraging mistakes. If you’ve ever stared paralyzed at a blank canvas/page/protoboard/ etc, you likely understand the problem. In fact, when I find myself stuck in a loop of perfection paralysis, the best cure seems to be starting off in an intentionally wrong direction. Sometimes demonstrating how I don’t want a project to go, can define how I do want things to turn out … or at least ‘break the ice’. [via The Stretta Procedure]

On the role of mistakes in the process of creativity

26 thoughts on “How education threatens creativity …

  1. Tim says:

    Yay for mistakes!

  2. Kurt says:


    I’m fortunate enough to have found a school that encourages my boys to experiment and explore, rather than looking for the correct answer. Their understanding and comprehension of mathematics, for instance, is incredible at the higher levels as a result of this approach.

    I’ve also wondered how much the web has dampened my creativity. I spend much of any pre-project time trying to find others who have done it first before launching in to a project and making mistakes myself. It’s a discipline thing, to be sure, and it isn’t a clear cut answer as there are many projects I likely wouldn’t even had thought of if it weren’t for sites like Make and Instructables.

    But I can’t help but think I might have come upon some better (or even different) solutions had I been forced to think solely by myself…

    1. Simon says:

      I do the opposite and look on the web to find projects people HAVEN’T done before :) I then find bits and pieces there that help me work things out but there are plenty of mistakes made along the way.

      1. Kurt says:

        That sounds like an excellent way to work, Simon.

        As I said, it’s a discipline thing on my part. I believe my work flow should evolve (or devolve as the case may be) into more paper and prototype time before going online and finding the answers.

  3. screaminscott says:

    Fer crying out loud!

    People act as if public education is the end-all and be-all of all knowledge. And if public education isn’t friggin PERFECT then poor ol’ Johnny and Sally won’t know ANYTHING.

    What people fail to realize is that public education just provides BASIC KNOWLEDGE. It’s a damn STARTING POINT. Kids need to know basic history, mathematics, science, literature, grammer, etc. So when your kid say’s “I don’t need to know algebra, I’m goin gto be an artist” you can say “You might want to be an artist today, but if you decide to be a scientist tomorrow, then you’ll have the tools to do it”.

    Knowledge doesn’t dampen creativity, it RELEASES it. Because if you don’t know anything, you spend all your time rediscovering stuff everyone else already knows. But, with a good basic grasp of common knowledge, you can spend all your time doing NEW stuff, without all the grunt work needed reinventing the wheel.

    1. jiggy says:

      You know… sometimes it’s fun to figure something out on your own, even something that is “common knowledge” to people who have taken a higher level class and already know how to do it or that it exists.

      Example, I was in some math class doing the typical trudging stuff and got bored. So, I tried to figure out an easier way to do what was being taught to us and came up with something that seemed like it should work in all cases. At the end of class, I asked the instructor if I could just do it this way, he looked it over and said, yes that will work.

      Come to find out from a friend who was in a much higher level math class that what I had figured out on my own, all by myself, was a typical operation or integral part to sometheing else.

      Wow, you would say, I wasted that class time learning something that I could have just been taught.

      Wow, I would say, I figured out something from a much higher level math all on my own without anyone’s help.

      Common knowledge isn’t imparted by schools to empty minds, common knowledge is brought to schools and acted out on the play ground and slowly replaced with other less important stuff. Maybe not to the extent that the speaker implies, but it does happen.

    2. Anonymous says:

      but what if education provided more than just the basics? think of the power of teaching, it shapes everyone.

    3. carole says:

      I just got done high school. first school doesn’t give you just the basics… unless you consider the basics very complicated pieces of information. second school doesn’t release creativity. it really shuns it. if it released it I would have no problem writing 20+ page stories like I used to. now I can barely get a three page story or essay writing. we are not allowed to be free thinkers our independence and free thoughts are squashed, making (At least some of use) unable/unwilling to do things without asking questions, without feeling scared if they aren’t told everything.

  4. Sean says:

    Don’t let education get in the way of your learning.

    -Mark Twain

  5. GarageB says:

    It isn’t that the web is making us dumb, yet that it frees up our time doing all things from a bottom up approach. Not to say we may not miss steps.

    Moving forward we need to understand that it may not be as much about ‘what you know’, as to knowing where to get knowledge and how to use it. The web allows me to be a smarter mechanic than the guy at the garage, a provider of computer solutions regardless of platform, the ability to diagnose minor medical conditions, repair household items, etc.

    It is like being taught by some of the finest teachers in each subject, exactly about what you need to know. It it over your head a bit? Chances are there is probably a deeper explanation.

    The future will be less about the hardware and software, and more about the information we need and the way we work with it.

  6. Collin Cunningham says:

    A familiarity with ‘known facts’ is totally a valuable benefit of test-based education – but it’s equally important to know how/why these fundamentals were formed and tested in the first place.

    Learning something on your own teaches you much more than that one fact. It exercises investigative and problem-solving skills as well as self confidence – without this we’d only parrot our textbooks. It’s the application of these techniques that leads to new discoveries, often in areas we’ve considered fully mapped out and exhausted of newness.

    I continue to depend on trial and error to solve problems. To put it simply – it’s important we don’t demonize error. A strong fear of mistakes is an efficient way to snuff out innovation.

  7. noor syal says:

    education is ice. creativity is water. genius is gas. your choice is as good as mine…

  8. Apis says:

    I completely agree with this. School is killing creativity. All school focus on is memorising “facts” with no understanding. You can’t even remember the “facts” after a year, because the brain doesn’t work like that. The brain needs to think and work with someting in order to learn and remember it. The only way to learn something is to work with it. And knowing what doesn’t work is also important, and why it doesn’t work, etc.

    If you ask questions you are annoying, because you take up valuable time. Your supposed to shut up and do your assignments. It’s really sad.

    School for me was a total waste of time, I would have learned a lot more if they would just have sent me the books to study alone at home.

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