Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Food for Thought



                     When I look back now, school reminds of uniforms and annual days; recesses and prayers; books and homework. I never think about the time when I danced like crazy in the dance class or sang horribly in the singing class, because it never happened. I hope it would’ve though.

I am pursuing medicine; one of the top careers preferred by Indian parents. By next year I will have graduated and I will most likely be on my way to pursue my masters.

Sometimes when I introspect, I think about why I chose medicine? Why did I decide not to try anything else? Well frankly, I never knew I had that option available. I scored well in my boards, hence, I could not have gone into arts. You don’t work hard and get good grades to be creative. That’s the general consensus anyway. You put your marks to good use by pursuing medicine, engineering or commerce. We’ve always been taught to associate good grades to careers in science and commerce. When did we start thinking like this? And why? The seed, I believe, is planted in school. Subjects like mathematics, science and languages are given the most importance. Arts- which include painting, singing, dance and literature- are hardly given significance. Even moral science was given more importance in my school. Dancing, singing and acting are considered as extracurricular; the after school activities. So basically, since the time we start school it is drilled into our heads that arts will and should come secondary.


So, when did this all start?

Well, public education all over the world began in the 19th century, which was the era of industrialization. People were told not to take up arts because then the possibilities of ending up with jobs were low. Since industrialization mainly saw growth of factories, it makes sense. We still did get some mind blowing artists from those times.

In present times, however, this is not practical at all. It is extremely vital to give equal weight to arts and academics. Sir Ken Robinson explains in his talk at TED how today’s education focuses only on teaching from the waist up and is more concentrated to the left side of the brain. He says that imagination is the source of every form of human achievement. And it’s that one thing we are systematically jeopardizing by the way in which we educate our children and ourselves. Imagination is the key to unlock the future. None of us know what the future holds for us. What is the world going to look like 5 years down the line? Well, all it takes is a little imagination.

Creativity is defined as ‘the ability to make new things or think new ideas’. Our human brain is a wonderful little thing, especially that of a young child. Children are fearless and shameless- the qualities absolutely necessary to be creative. Children have ridiculous ideas which make no sense to anyone except them (I don’t think it makes sense to them too). They still embark upon them quite confidently, I must say. Creativity literally means opening up our minds and imagining beyond our ability. It means believing in the impossible, it means believing in ourselves and it means accepting failure and moving ahead. Aren’t these the qualities that help us succeed? I reckon so.

It is important to make children creatively and academically well to do, if we are to flourish. Our education system needs to change. Children who are good at dance and arts or children who are creative are not appreciated as much as they should be. They are squandered under unnecessary burdens. Our system trains us to be accomplished academic idiots (me being one) with no imagination. However, the problem lies in the fact that we are living in the age of academic inflation. A single degree is not enough anymore and even then the promise of a job is minimal.

Our system needs to transform and so do we. We need to be more accepting. Now, I am not trying to say that every person who has not taken up arts is dying in his/her chosen field. But what I am trying to explain is that a good amount of people are questioning their choices, which should wake us up and take steps to incorporate arts diligently. Because I think, creativity is not just a career choice; it’s a way of life that teaches you more about yourself than any subject ever can. Trust me on this one, this coming from a future doctor who dances and dreams of becoming a writer.

Photography By: Ved Dubhashi