Recently I read an article by Jessica Olien of Slate.com titled “Inside The Box: People Don’t Actually Like Creativity”. The article reaffirmed every criticism I have of public education about how it doesn’t prepare students for the demands of the workforce. From my experience I find that the “best students” are the ones producing essays, answers, and thoughts straight from textbooks and the tired mouths of our teachers. Olien captured my feelings on the issue well with her quote:
“Unfortunately, the place where our first creative ideas go to die is the place that should be most open to them—school. Studies show that teachers overwhelmingly discriminate against creative students, favoring their satisfier classmates who more readily follow directions and do what they’re told.”
The generic system of education we have in the United States has created a country just like this. It discriminates against abstract thinkers and risk-takers with the only thing that matters in school, grades. Worse than teachers implementing these subjective grades are the state and national tests that reward them for doing so. Tests like the MCAS not only dictate everything a student must learn from 6th-10th grade, but it also rewards teachers for creating students who all think exactly alike. It seems that in a perfect world the creators of the MCAS want every student to get a perfect score, solve the same math problems, and write a perfect essay about their identical feelings on To Kill A Mockingbird.
This is not learning. Simply regurgitating what we are told to think and say in middle and high school does not help students the critical thinking skills they need to solve real life problems. Even in a class that boasts an AP curriculum that is designed to hone a student’s critical thinking skills still steers students to the same conclusions. Often in my AP U.S. History class my teacher would tell us to write an essay and take a stance on an issue like “Who was in the right in WWII and why?” The questions would leave students either rewriting our notes from the class the day before or taking a surprisingly fascist stance on a war very close to my elderly teacher’s heart.
It is important that, despite this flawed system, that students find a way to hone their creative abilities and avoid getting discouraged by a bad grade or rejection. Knowing that “unexceptional ideas are far more likely to be accepted than wonderful ones” is vital to understanding the importance of creativity. We, as students, must learn to find our own passions and our own outlets for creative thinking so we don’t lose the ability to do so forever.
“To live creatively is a choice. You must make a commitment to your own mind and the possibility that you will not be accepted. You have to let go of satisfying people, often even yourself.”