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March 12, 2012 | by  | in Arts Visual Arts |
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Crushing Creativity

In his TED Conference talk, Sir Ken Robinson tells a story about a girl drawing in a dedicated fashion at a kindergarten. While she is working away, a teacher strolls over and asks her student what she is drawing. The young girl replies, “I’m drawing God”. The teacher is baffled by this, and tells her that she can’t do that because no one knows what God looks like. According to Robinson, the girl simply turned and said, “they will in a minute”. Robinson’s point is that children have an innate creativity that can manifest itself in a plethora of unexpected (and often unwelcome) ways.

Children’s art is often dismissed as being generic and repetitive, like the house with two outrageously large windows. However, this is reductive–kids create work with no preconceived rules about what art is supposed to be. Like the little girl drawing deities, children are capable of operating outside of the walls which we adults build inside our own minds, walls to define what is allowed and what is not.

The Latin root for the word education is educare, which translates as “to bring out what is within.” If this principle still stood as a fundamental part of modern education, then this spark shown in young children would be uniformly sheltered, allowed to flare up and endure. Despite all the excellent attributes that our education system has, there is an enduring culture of discouraging certain habits by punishing ‘mistakes’. Therefore, over a sustained period of time, children are inoculated with the ideology that originality equates to being outside the herd. In essence, originality is dangerous because it’s not the norm. The irony, of course, is that creativity does set you apart, but it does so for everyone, and this in turn creates a herd of original souls.

The classroom environment works to put in place the rules we need to function within a modern civil society, but it also works to instill regulations that are unnecessary, perhaps even damaging. Picasso said that, “all children are born artists, the problem is to remain artists as we grow up”; the education system is one of the greatest obstacles between us and that end.

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