Who Stole Creativity?

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Much attention has been given in recent years to the idea that creativity is being smothered today, usually with one of three culprits pinpointed: our school systems, the new economy, or technology and the distracting gadgets that come along with it. Do you think this is the case? If so, what can we do about it?

In his brilliant 2006 Ted talk, Sir Ken Robinson blames our schools and their refusal to nurture children’s creative abilities. In our current education systems, Robinson says, “mistakes are the worst thing you can make” – and that fear of being wrong is not exactly conducive to taking creative risks. Additionally, he points out that children are usually discouraged from pursuing creative interests due to the ostensible lack of jobs in those fields – yet when they go on to earn degrees in supposedly more useful fields, college graduates still face a higher unemployment rate than normal.

Could this reality be because these school and universities are preparing us for an economy that no longer exists? David Lu believes so. In his article “Is Education Killing Creativity in the New Economy?”, he points out that the skill sets we need for modern jobs have drastically changed – and increased – since the industrial age gave way to the information age. However, our education systems haven’t adapted to reflect that shift very well. It seems that technology, and the changing workforce it necessitates, is progressing quicker than our schools can keep up with.

But technology and education is exactly what Drake Baer fingers as the thief of creativity in his article “Why Your iPhone Addiction is Snuffing Your Creativity” – namely, cell phones, social media, and the constant over-stimulation they create that prevents us from ever getting bored. But, as he points out, boredom is the very breeding ground of creativity. Creative pauses are needed in order for our minds to drift and daydream, but instead we often give in to a quick fix for eliminating them altogether via “the daily dillydallying of social networks, playing games, and texting.”

Whether the culprit is one or some combination of all three of the factors discussed here, I believe we don’t have to sit by and allow creativity to go the way of the dodo bird. Individualized and personalized instruction can go a long way in tapping into a person’s unique talents and skills. Critical thinking can be encouraged by the way educators lead and formulate their discussions, projects, and testing techniques. And we all play a role in the regard in which we hold creative endeavors. We must acknowledge that it’s not so farfetched for people to have creative jobs anymore – or at least to use creative skills professionally – and we need to encourage our children to pursue their natural interests whether they are creative or not.

Technology and education will continue to evolve, and the economy will continue to shift. If the school systems remain stagnant while the world moves on around them, schools are not doing the students justice. It’s time to develop better ways for our education systems to remain adaptive instead of allowing them to pretend nothing has changed when it comes to the ways in which we teach and learn. How do you suggest they can keep up?

Written By: Lorelei Plotczyk
Lorelei is a regular contributor to the Ashford University blog.

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