Schools and Creativity

An interesting quote from “Tribal Leadership” on how industrialization changed the school system:

The solution was to train a new generation of workers by teaching them inside a system that looked a lot like a factory. In school, bell rings, go to class; bell rings, recess; bell rings, go back to class; bell rings, eat lunch; bell rings, go home. At school, children with the “right” answer get a gold star, then an A. A star pupil is one who does the homework and has the right answers. This new system undid the classic liberal education which said that value was in the well-designed question.

As data becomes more and more accessible and available, how valuable are these sorts of skills? Ubiquitous access to information means memorization of things like specific dates or formulae is an over-rated skill. The real skill is in understanding the underlying series of systems and actions that formed that memorable date. It is in knowing that a formula exists in the abstract, and can be applied specifically in different and possibly unrelated areas.


Sir Ken Robinson had a fantastic talk at TED on why applying a system across the board marginalizes certain creative personality types, and why he believes that nurturing creativity should be held in equal regard to skills like writing and numerical literacy. Paul Graham briefly mentions why apprenticeships make sense for some people. How will technology advances influence teaching?

Finally, here’s a great video on the importance of a good teacher from one of Seth Godin’s recent posts.

One thought on “Schools and Creativity

  1. Interesting post and good cross references, Dave. The inherent problem is with the system because it requires quantitive rather than qualitative ways of measuring (thus rewarding) performance. And in an attempt to make it fair and uniform, “right” answers are pre-defined. This is why teachers grade for the “right” answers, corporate executives run for short term profit and politicians address politically-correct causes instead of real problems.

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