Killing creativity, ruthlessly and systematically
I’m a big fan of TED talks. In my view, they’re among the best things on the net (which is the whole point), along with xkcd (the ultimate webcomic for nerdy sciencey types). In the latest TED talk I’ve come across, Sir Ken Robinson asks whether schools kill creativity.
It’s an excellent talk, delivered with superb comic timing, and has struck a definite chord with me.
He makes the point that in every education system around the world, there is the same hierarchy of subjects, with science and maths at the top, then languages, and humanities and the arts at the bottom. So, someone who has a natural talent for dance, but can’t sit still in a maths class could be considered not only as an academic failure, but also a disruptive influence on others. There’s no reason why their natural creative talent shouldn’t be considered of equal value and equally nurtured.
Children’s natural talents and creativity can be smothered at an early age by an education system designed to place greater value on certain subjects than on others. It could be argued that these subjects are ultimately of greater value to the economy, but I think this attitude is self-defeating.
I think science is important, but I don’t want everyone to be a scientist or to think rationally about everything. The world would be a much duller place. We need a range of talents to create a balanced society.
Now, I want to take Sir Ken’s point and apply it to the other end of the educational ladder. There’s been a long-running farce over government trying to force a “culture change” in university science research, whereby projects are assessed in terms of foreseeable economic impact, and research departments are increasingly encouraged to coordinate with business.
It appears vaguely sensible in the short term to try to justify public investment in terms of the expected return, but again, this approach of determining the relative value of different projects will kill creativity.
Scientists become scientists for different reasons, and bring with them a vast range of talents and ideas. Applying an economic filter to every single proposal for funding actively discourages true scientific innovation.
In some cases scientists are also actively discouraged from submitting risky proposals for fear of being blacklisted for if too many ideas are rejected.
If science funding is tight, as we all know it will be for several years to come, surely it should be used to encourage creative new science and solutions to the world’s problems. Don’t kill our creativity.Education comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.