Dr. Joanne Valin
14 February 2014
I remember it clearly, eight o’clock on some Tuesday morning, when for the first time I realized that I might have actually been good at something. I had just exited the school bus accompanied by a familiar headache induced by the noisy bus. Foggy headed, I walked to my class, sat in my usual spot and prepared for the routine “bell work” the class did every morning. Each day, for twenty minutes, the class was assigned a variety of creative assignments to work on, but today was different. Today was free work and we could do whatever we wanted. Instantly I had decided that I was going to write a story. After a few moments I had decided on zombies as my topic. I was the subject of the story, which featured me riding home on the school bus when the zombie apocalypse started. I remember that I escaped through the emergency window while the bus driver was being eaten by zombies. I made it to my house where my family had already fallen victim to the plague. I couldn’t kill them, so I wrestled them into a closet and was bitten in the process. I was the most proud of the punchline though, when in the story I was watching my neighbour fleeing from zombies out my front door. In the story, I thought that I was a bit hungry since I had skipped breakfast and joined the other zombies in the chase. I was ten years old.
Now you might think that I was scolded for writing such a graphic story but instead, I was praised. The teacher loved it so much, she had me read it to the class. They gave me a standing ovation. From then on, I was a cocky bastard (I will come back to this).
Sir Ken Robinson criticizes the education system for stunting creative growth. He basically says that the system uses a cookie cutter method to shape a mold of children. This mold, which is held up to a general standard, was established around the turn of the century (“How schools kill creativity” Robinson)And he is correct, or at least I think he is. I say that with a lack of surety because I came from a school that was very encouraging of creativity. If a student came up with a different way of finding a solution which wasn’t the way we were taught, and if the solution was still correct, the teacher would ask the student to present it to the class.
Actually, I believe my school system was a little bit too supportive of our creativity and off-the-wall endeavours. Let’s examine another problem for a second, a problem exclusive to my generation, generation Y. I’ve noticed a reoccurring pattern in a lot of people around my age, a pattern that I myself use to share and that I am still struggling to shed. A trend which must have started in the early 90’s or so, apparently told parents and teachers to be extremely overly supportive of their children. Obviously being supportive of your children isn’t a problem but there is a limit. You see, my peers and I were taught that each one of us was special and privately we were told that we were different and unique from everyone else. Also, we were told that we could ANYTHING we wanted to. That is sound advice, right? No. It bred a generation filled with arrogant and nonchalant children (I was one myself) who believed that they no longer need to try because if we were so special and so unique, then great things would just come to us naturally. We set the bar so high for ourselves, and believed we were already tall enough to reach it. And this theory is not an original idea, a few journalists have discussed this issue.
So, yes, I am a cocky bastard. I am an autonomous zombie like many of the people my age, doing anything I want with no regards to the realities of society and the working world. This is because we were overly praised for breaking the rules and doing whatever we wanted. Kids should not be taught that they can do or be whatever they want. They should be taught that they can TRY to be and do whatever they want. To accomplish great things and be something great takes a lot of time and a lot of hard work.
Robinson is on the right track, but as always we, the people, should tread carefully. We need to find a balance. By that I mean that schools should encourage children to be creative if they’d like to be but make them aware that they are still only seeds, and still need work and time to bloom and that they will always be growing. They are not special flowers, they all grow together and at the same pace. Some flowers just have different colours than others and should be appreciated for exactly what they are: different, but no better than their companions. This way of thinking will put an end to the lazily autonomous zombies that this generation has created. Instead, we will have children who feel free to try anything they want and still be supported but will go in understanding that effort is necessary and that prodigies are rare. That way we develop children who are prepared to go out into the real world and hopefully, already have somewhat of a good idea of what they want to do with their life; however, if they still don’t know, at least they have the skills to find out.
Robinson, Ken, writ. How schools kill creativity. TEDmTalks, 2006. Web. 10 Feb 2014. <www.ted.com>.