Friday, 21 May 2010

Reviving Creativity

I think this is the third time I've blogged about Sir Ken Robinson's talk on his theory that Schools are Killing Creativity, but there is a good reason, his theory to my mind is correct. At high school art was considered a skive, you'd take art to avoid serious work in traditionally more academic subjects and have the opportunity to mess around for an afternoon whilst torturing the teacher; who probably at one point believed they were going to make a difference. I'd like to say emphatically that for me this was not the case, art was the one class that I felt truly comfortable in but the 'traditional' subjects were still considered more important (not to me however). Then when I went into university, people who had no prior knowledge of both the academic & practical sides art school assumed it would be an easy ride. There was always a distinct lack of seriousness when it came to the academic standing of art in relation of Maths, English, Science, but on the plus side, I was in an environment where I was surrounded by like minded people who were as enthusiastic about the subject as I was.

The bases of Robinson's theory is that when we are children, we are passionately enthusiastic about everything, but in particular our own creativity. When we are children we're not frightened of being wrong. If kids don't know, they'll take a chance, we're naive enough that the concept of being wrong doesn't even enter our heads, we just want to know more. As adults we lose this and "if you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original".

"Picasso once said this, he said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. I believe this passionately, that we don't grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather we get educated out of it."

We genuinely are educated out of creativity and Robinson highlights this throughout his enlightening talk. In schools, the same hierarchy of subjects is always present, Mathematics and Languages are at the top, then humanities (modern studies, geography, history etc) and then at the both are Arts. I think this is probably still one step up from PE and yet it is still probably taken more seriously. In school we are steered away from things we like because we're lead to believe we will never get a job from it, "Academic ability, which has really come to dominate our view of intelligence because the universities designed the system in their image. If you think of it, the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they're not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn't valued, or was actually stigmatized."

Everything is a degree now, every child is groomed for university, even if their chosen subject could ideally be taught through internships & hands on experience. This is partly because we've been lead to believe the only way to get a job is to have a degree, however this frequently does two things, either makes you over qualified or still under qualified because the academic goal posts are pushed even further back. In September 2009 I came away from university for a second time with a Masters of Design after achieving a first class honours degree. Fortunately, for part of my chosen career path, I can set my own workshop up, get my work seen and sold without a traditional job, however, I would still like to consider teaching jewellery at a higher education level. In order to do this, I would most likely need to do a PhD and therefore I have been a victim of "academic inflation".

Ken Robinsons' talk on Creativity is a precurser to his book The Element, which is an easy and very enjoyable read - he writes the way he talks in a passionate, anecdotal, comedic manner and for any creative mind who has ever felt like the academics poor relation, I wholeheartedly recommend it. At least watch the talk because this is essentially the introduction to book.

Listening: Julie Fowlis - Blackbird


Ali said...

This is both interesting and true I think. As you know, I have had a bee in my bonnet about the idea you have to go to uni if you can since we were in school. But I think all my experience and that of people I know who've graduated has been the same.

Two of my flatmates are giving in and going back to uni this September, because although they have good degrees those qualifications aren't actually enough on their own. Meanwhile the other half works at Waterstone's, and once had a training session where one St Andrews graduate (who also did another couple of years at Edin Uni) taught four other St Andrews grads to lift boxes safely. Four or more years and thousands of quid well spent, there.

I really think the focus ought to be on getting kids to think about what they want to do, and also telling them what is available. I didn't know at school that journalism wasn't the only way to write for a living - nobody pointed out that jobs in communications or PR consist largely of writing copy of varying types, for instance.

So many people go to uni because that's just what you do after school, with no real idea of what they want to get out of it in the long run. Then they come out the other end and still don't really know, so they settle down to a crap job because after all most people don't get to make a living doing what they want to do; and anyway they're overqualified/underexperienced.

ARG, frankly.


Emily said...

A lot of my friends are in the same boat, they've had a year (or more) out of uni since finishing their degrees and after bouncing about for a bit realised that the only way they're going forward is to go back to uni and get more qualifications.

It really is the done things now, go to uni, get a degree, get a job, return to uni because job sucked and try again.

Do you remember when we were in school, many moons ago, once or twice we were sent to that little cupboard at the back of the library to see the careers advisor? When I said I wanted to go to art school, they went blank. It wasn't the normal response. To their credit, the woman did give me lots of details about one course at one university, but it didn't inform my choice and I ended up going back looking towards Primary teaching because I was convinced my choice wasn't good enough. That I had in fact made the wrong choice because it wasn't conventional.

Luckily when I got to college (thanks to Mr. Waddle & Mr. Maxwell giving me the prospectus) I knew I'd made the right choice, but you're right the focus ought to be on getting kids to think about what they want to do and what is available to them. Especially with what they are naturally interested in and good at. But that shouldn't always mean pushing them towards university.

Bring back good old apprenticeship!


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