REACHING 20,000 MUSIC EDUCATORS EACH MONTH IN PRINT/DIGITAL. SUBSCRIBE NOW FOR FREE! CLICK HERE!

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Mike Lawson • Archives • March 12, 2009

A friend of mine recently shared this story with me:

There was a little girl (we will call her Jill) whose teachers suspected she had a learning disability. Jill couldn’t sit still. She couldn’t concentrate on her work. And she didn’t seem to care. There was talk of sending Jill to a special needs school.

So Jill and her worried mother visited a psychologist. The psychologist interviewed the mother, all the while watching the daughter and recognizing some telltale signs. The psychologist asked Jill’s mother if they could speak privately. On the way out of his office, the psychologist turned on a radio.

Hidden from view in the hallway, they watched Jill dance around the room with amazing grace and in a state of pure joy.

“Jill isn’t sick,” said the psychologist. “She’s a dancer. Take her to a dance school.” And that’s where Jill discovered her element and found herself in the company of others who had to move to think.

In this story Jill is actually Gillian Lynn one of the world’s most accomplished and acclaimed choreographers (Cats, Phantom of the Opera). She’s also worked as a ballerina, dancer, actor, and theatre and TV director.

The story is true and my friend, world-renowned author Sir Ken Robinson, told it to me. He went on to say, “Someone looked deep into her eyes someone who had seen children like her before and knew how to read the signs. Someone else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down. But Gillian wasn’t a problem child. She didn’t need to go away to a special school. She just needed to be who she really was.”

And this is the main point of Sir Ken’s new book called The Element How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. It is his latest salvo in the argument for personal and educational transformation. The Element just hit bookshelves in January and has already made it to the New York Times best sellers list.

For those of you who have followed my blog or my columns, you already know about my friendship with Sir Ken and what I huge follower of his work I have become. The release of The Element should move many people (and hopefully some of you) from fans to followers, as well.

Do Schools Kill Creativity?Gillian’s story is just one of several included in the book about well-known people who struggled to find their way. Substitute any name and you quickly see how these stories are equally applicable to the everyday citizen. How many of us have found our “element” as Sir Ken describes it “that meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion”? How about our students? And have we created the proper “conditions” in our schools for our students to even have a chance at finding their element?

I have read all of Sir Ken’s books. While I have learned something from each one and enjoyed them all, The Element is clearly his greatest, most compelling, argument yet for the need to change how we as individuals, groups, and societies look at creativity and it’s place in each of our lives. More importantly, The Element is a clarion call for a revolution in education. Sir Ken accomplishes this in the most accessible and witty way.

The book’s final chapter, “Making the Grade,” is a clear manifesto for educational transformation in our nation and around the world. Sir Ken says, “Education doesn’t need to be reformed• it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.” This chapter is worth the price of the book alone!

When you think about what is happening in our schools today, how many of the courses designed to engage our children in unique and meaningful ways are being forced from the school day, and how the unique character of many of our students is being beaten out of them so they conform to a series of bubble tests and AYP scores, The Element provides the antidote to the “standardization” disease that is smothering all the creativity out of our children.

Sir Ken famously asked in his 2006 Ted Talk, “Do schools kill creativity?”

In my opinion, the answer for many schools is: Yes!

In The Element, Sir Ken shows us the pathway out. If only we can get enough policy makers to read it, digest it, and follow suit.

So here is your homework today. Go out and buy three copies of the book; One for yourself, one for your principal and one for the superintendent or a school board member.

Once they read it they and you will never be the same. Chances are, your school will never be the same either.

Publisher Weekly states:

“Robinson, renowned in the areas of creativity development, innovation and human resources, tackles the challenge of determining and pursuing work that is aligned with individual talents and passions to achieve well-being and success. The element is what he identifies as the point where the activities individuals enjoy and are naturally good at come together. Offering a wide range of stories about the creative journeys of different people with diverse paths to the element including Paul McCartney, The Alchemist author Paulo Coelho, and Vidal Sassoon as well as lesser-known examples he demonstrates a rich vision of human ability and creativity. Covering such topics as the power of creativity, circles of influence, and attitude and aptitude, the author emphasizes the importance of nurturing talent along with developing an understanding of how talent expresses itself differently in every individual. Robinson emphasizes the importance of mentors and reforming and transforming education, making a convincing argument bolstered by solid strategies for honing creativity. Motivating and persuasive, this entertaining and inspiring book will appeal to a wide audience.”

The story is true and my friend, world-renowned author Sir Ken Robinson, told it to me. He went on to say, “Someone looked deep into her eyes someone who had seen children like her before and knew how to read the signs. Someone else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down. But Gillian wasn’t a problem child. She didn’t need to go away to a special school. She just needed to be who she really was.”

And this is the main point of Sir Ken’s new book called The Element How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. It is his latest salvo in the argument for personal and educational transformation. The Element just hit bookshelves in January and has already made it to the New York Times best sellers list.

For those of you who have followed my blog or my columns, you already know about my friendship with Sir Ken and what I huge follower of his work I have become. The release of The Element should move many people (and hopefully some of you) from fans to followers, as well.

Gillian’s story is just one of several included in the book about well-known people who struggled to find their way. Substitute any name and you quickly see how these stories are equally applicable to the everyday citizen. How many of us have found our “element” as Sir Ken describes it “that meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion”? How about our students? And have we created the proper “conditions” in our schools for our students to even have a chance at finding their element?

I have read all of Sir Ken’s books. While I have learned something from each one and enjoyed them all, The Element is clearly his greatest, most compelling, argument yet for the need to change how we as individuals, groups, and societies look at creativity and it’s place in each of our lives. More importantly, The Element is a clarion call for a revolution in education. Sir Ken accomplishes this in the most accessible and witty way.

The book’s final chapter, “Making the Grade,” is a clear manifesto for educational transformation in our nation and around the world.

The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!