NaBloPoMo: Killing Creativity

I read a blog post yesterday that had been written by a good friend of mine. The post was in response to the “curriculum cleansing” being put in place by Secretary of State Michael Gove.

Now I’ll admit, I’ve not really been keeping up to date with the news in England lately. News here tends to have a Finnish focus, funnily enough. And yes I could read on the websites, and I do from time to time, but sometimes I’m busy…

Anyway.

Reading my friend’s article and learning about the changes that are to take place really made me think, and I quickly did a search to find out some more information.

Apparently there is going to be a restructuring of sorts. English literature will no longer be a compulsory subject. The compulsory study of English will be more or less reduced to grammar and rules. There will be no criticising or analysing, just the final rigidity of right and wrong.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I find that absolutely appalling. Or at the very least a huge step in the wrong direction.

In an article I read on the subject Gove is quoted as saying that “We’ve rewarded schools that teach traditional subjects” and a fellow minister goes on to say that “We are rebalancing the curriculum towards high-value subjects – in maths, sciences, DT, computing, English and languages.”

Allow me to reiterate that – high value subjects.

Presumably then the other subjects are low value.

Where is the art? The literature? The drama? The music?

Where do we encourage the young to be creative, to use their imaginations?

Therein lies the problem – we don’t. Creativity is discouraged. It is looked down on. Anyone who has studied one of the arts at university has no doubt been faced with the question – “why didn’t you choose something more useful to study?”

I admit that I am a bit biased but I think creativity is useful. In fact I would argue it is vital.

The so-called traditional (and therefore ‘useful’) subjects share a common theme. They have rules. They have right and wrong. Take maths for example – you learn the techniques, and following them perfectly will get you the right answer. With chemistry it is the same – combine the right chemicals to make the reaction you want, and if you don’t follow it perfectly then it will be wrong.

These subjects are rigid and inflexible.

All children are born with an innate creative. They are artists, musicians, actors and story tellers at heart. If you leave a child to their own devices to play they will tell stories – whether they are playing with dolls or cars, dressing up or just playing make-believe. Give them an instrument and they will make music. Give them crayons and they will draw, and it doesn’t matter if the sky is purple, or if the cat is the same size as the tree. For children such boundaries and rules do not apply. They let there imaginations run wild. And it’s wonderful.

I’m not saying that learning rules and boundaries is a complete evil. I forget who said it (can anyone tell me?) but it is said that you have to learn the rules before you can break them. Yes, rules and boundaries are important. Used properly they can be used to guide creativity, to grow imagination.

I think sometimes people overlook the importance of creativity. But maybe those people are thinking too rigidly themselves. Invention and innovation requires imagination. Creativity and imagination are what give us the “what if..?” questions. “What if we could fly? How would we do that?” Without creativity and imagination we wouldn’t have many of the technologies that we have today.

Without innovation, prompted by creativity and imagination, how will we ever cure cancer? Or solve world hunger? Or create more efficient power sources? Or… well, I’m sure you get the idea.

A focus on the academic subjects – the rigidity of rules – teaches our youngsters how to think inside the box. The pooh-poohing of creative subjects, looking down our noses at those who chose to study them, discourages our children from thinking outside the box.

Because using your imagination is “wrong”.

Love,

Lady Joyful

There’s an absolutely wonderful TED talk about “How Schools Kill Creativity” which is extremely relevant to this topic! I would definitely recommend giving it a watch.

Do you think creativity is important? Do you think academic subjects should be prioritised? 

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3 thoughts on “NaBloPoMo: Killing Creativity

  1. Pingback: NaBloPoMo: It’s Okay (To Be Gay) | The Joyful Soul

  2. Of course creativity is important, but you should not parrot the common view that there is no creativity in maths, sciences and of course engineering that relies on the “what if” questions of visionaries.

    My curriculum in the first few years of formal education would be:
    1) Use of English: Grammar, a decent vocabulary with correct spelling (how many words should an eight year old know?) Reading comprehension.
    2) basic arithmetic (this is not really maths) as in knowing how numbers work, as they are generally tied to interesting patterns.
    3) basic science, as in the building blocks of life, the starting points of ancient Greek and Newtonian science, the solar system.
    4) How to think, how to find ideas and information. Basic philosophy.
    5) a look each week at art from different eras and places (no multicultural PC drivel here please as it only reinforces differences that then become entrenched rather than coincidental).
    6) Fun, games, free creativity.

    After this with a little guidance and prodding the curious will find their own way forward. The rest are probably not in need of any further academic learning but should still receive reinforcement of the above as well as creative hands on subjects.

    Remember that all politicians want is compliant unthinking voters.

    • Yes I guess that there is some amount of creativity within the sciences and engineering (I can’t think of any in maths though, at least not from what I remember of studying it in school!)
      Your curriculum ideas do sound interesting. As I said in the post, it is of course important to learn the rules and I’m not suggesting they be dismissed completely in favour of nothing but creativity and imagination. So yes, grammar, arithmetic etc. are certainly important parts of the curriculum.
      Sometimes I feel like there was a lot I missed out on in early education – philosophy for example. From what I remember of primary school (and my memory is patchy) our education seemed to be mostly English and maths (in the mornings), with PE twice a week in the afternoons. Any other afternoons were for whatever other subjects they were remembering to teach at the time – if the play was coming up every afternoon seemed dedicated to drama, if we were doing a project (such as the one I did on volcanoes) then most of the afternoons for several weeks would be dedicated to that. Maybe I am remembering wrongly, but we seemed to go weeks between history lessons, or geography lessons.
      But to get back on point, whilst I agree that the academic subjects do have their importance, I would still argue that it is a good idea to have compulsory lessons that outright encourage creativity. And literature would seem to be a good choice for that.

      Incidentally I had a look in my childcare coursework to see if I could find an answer to your question of how many words an 8 year old should know, but it didn’t have a number. Having a search on the internet told me that it should be around 5000!

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