Sir Ken Robinson on Creativity vs. the System


I was introduced to TED two years ago in my Organizational Behaviour class, and since then, I have watched the videos on YouTube occasionally when the mood strikes. I realize that I might be a little behind on the program considering this video is a few years old, but I was glad that someone else shares similar views on a subject that I spent many years thinking about.

“Smart” is a word that is thrown around quite freely, and tends to have different connotations depending on which stage of your life you are in. In school, one is considered “smart” if they get a high scores on tests. In the work field (aka real life), one is labelled “smart” if they can meet or exceed the expectations of their job. This is only a general statement of course, opinions on being “smart” vary depending on fields of work, and cultural upbringing.

Often times, people think that smart equals creative, and visa versa. I think that one has absolutely nothing to do with the other. They both depend on each individual’s strengths, their inspirations, and their personal goals. Sir Ken Robinson is questioning if the education system realizes this. I appreciate his example of how subjects such as math and science are at the top of the curriculum, while arts and music are at the bottom. I have come to think of this as the “subject hierarchy.” Perhaps the educators feel like career paths such as medicine are more promising than art, which is why they lay so much emphasis on math and science. Why though? Not everyone has an aptitude for math and science. Is the point of education to push students in the direction which society considers “the right path”? Coming from a private school, we were given quite a lot of liberty with our subjects, but I always felt that there was a hidden expectation to go in a “certain path” Mind you, this may have been more from a social aspect, but still…it was there.

Take Sir Robinson’s example of the girl who became a dancer, and is now a multi-millionaire who works with Andrew Lloyd-Webber. Studying math, science, and other subjects that are mandatory would have done her no good, and although her case may be rare, I think it is so representative of millions of students who are not in need of these subjects. It works the same way if a student who wanted to study sciences said they were not interested in art. Their school would not force them to take art, but a student who says they don’t want to take math will be forced to. When we are younger, teachers encourage us to use our imaginations, yet when we grow older they are not so open to our creativity. It is almost to say “play time is over” – but for some people using their creativity and imaginations is not “play time”, it is real life to them. They want to go on and use their creativity to build a life that is fulfilling to them. Once enrolling in university, many students may develop interests in subjects that never crossed their minds before. This is normal in university, but somehow not in primary and secondary education. Were students not given more liberty before to find their passions? Or is the education system focusing more personal development and being “well rounded”?

There are two sides to every story, and it’s not that one is more correct than the other,I think Sir Robinson’s main point is that the purpose that education serves is to steer students in a direction that they want to go in. Not one that is generally considered correct.