Does education kill creativity?

Do you remember being a child full of creative ideas? Your favourite activity at school would be cutting and sticking, and you’d draw and write for hours, creating whole worlds on a page. But now, you find yourself saying, “I’m just not a creative person.”

In 1968, George Land, a creative performance researcher, was approached by NASA to create a test to figure out how to separate creative types from others, by seeing who could come up with unusual solutions to NASA’s hardest problems.

He then went on to conduct a study of 1,600 five-year-olds and 98% of the children scored in the “highly creative” range. He re-tested the same subjects every five years. At ten-years-old, only 30% scored in this range, and the number further dropped to 2% at age twenty-five.

In one of the most popular TED talks of all time, Ken Robinson quoted Picasso in saying that “all children are born artists; the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.” He believes that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it (or rather get educated out of it).

He goes on to say that “creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” As children grow up, they are steered away from doing creative things at school on the grounds that they would not be able to find a job pursuing them.

Education makes us believe that there is only one right answer. It can make us feel like we are just a brain on a stick as we are told to just sit still and listen. It makes us focus more on the end result rather than the process of being creative. Education can then make us self-conscious and like everything we produce is never ‘good’ enough. 

As we grow older, we may begin to repress our creativity for fear of judgement or see it as childish. But being creative is a great way of self-expression and allows us to acknowledge our own uniqueness.

When I was younger, I always had a pen in my hand. I was constantly drawing or writing. As I got older and moved into secondary school and college, I found that I had lost touch with my creative side. I felt like I needed to focus on getting good marks.

I also found myself feeling miserable and constantly feeling like something was missing. I had to make a conscious decision to allow myself to be creative again. I started to write and draw every day. It was tough some days and I would have to force myself to create something. Eventually, it became more and more enjoyable. I found myself feeling more inspired to write more, to draw more, to start sewing and so on.

We all have the capacity for creativity, but we sometimes have to train our brain again. Creativity is a skill which needs to be practiced.

Even if you have lost touch, you can get back in touch with your creative side through a variety of exercises. You can follow Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages routine, where you just write three pages of whatever comes into your mind as soon as you wake up. Try making lists of interesting details you notice while on the bus or waiting in a queue, or a moment when you’d be more tempted to look at your phone instead.

Soon you will find yourself noticing more detail, feeling more inspired and more in touch with your creative side. So, pick up a pencil, a paintbrush, a pen, a knitting or sewing needle, or anything and get creating.

Featured image: Jodie Sutton

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