Thursday, October 23, 2014

Do schools kill creativity?

If you can give up about 10-minutes to watch the following video, I promise you won't be disappointed.  Sir Ken Robinson is witty, a little on the brilliant side, and very right on the mark when it comes to the way schools kill our kids' creativity.  But, don't take my word for that...


Before continuing on, I'm remembering Robinson's story about that Nativity play, and recalling my grandson many years ago coming home from school with an interesting question.  "Who is Richard Stands?" he wanted to know.  Huh?  Who?  Well, to young Anthony it was a fair question, as he recited, "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for Richard Stands:..." 

That story about Shakespeare surely caught my attention, too, mainly because I've seen something unusual -- and rather sad -- happen with a lot of very intelligent youngsters I've had the chance to observe.  I mean, can you just picture how some adults can be turned off by such young ones, and maybe even appear a little jealous?

Speaking of that, get a load of this...  I was visiting with a friend and her family in Georgia years ago, and I remember something that took place at a Civil War museum we visited one day.  For, while I was standing and studying a figure dressed in Rebel garb, a young voice started reading aloud the long description scrawled on the plaque below.  It was my friend's then 4-year old son who could actually read like an adult at that young age.  So...  Is he now a rocket scientist, or maybe a heart surgeon?  Naw...  His special talents were trained out of him beginning with the first day he hit public school.  Oh, he's still as sharp as a tack, but one has to wonder what he was really born to do.

I wouldn't be thrilled if my guy felt this way about school.
Then, something tied to my sport...  The youngest, smallest and arguably most skilled player on my JR HS team one night got the chance to work in our powerplay unit.  I stood back and watched with amusement as the kid took charge of older guys, and pretty much ran the show.  Not long into the drill, though, one of my assistant coaches came by, all worried that the little guy wasn't running our plays exactly according to design.  I laughed and told him to leave the kid alone, and that, "Those plays were designed for kids who can't be creative, while in truth, I wish they'd all do what he's doing."

And that might tell you a little about how I deal with athletes...  For sure, a lot of them need things drawn out for them.  On the other hand, the best athletes in the world -- say a Gretzky or a Michael Jordan -- need some space, because they'll find a way to succeed.  In fact, a lot like Robinson's point, we could be doing the special kids a huge disservice by "educating" them out of creativity.

Then, I hate to say it, but...  Robinson's description of college professors is right-on, as far as I'm concerned.  As a matter of fact, the profs he described remind me of a lot of the guys I do battle with in some hockey forums.  I mean, their ideas are UP THERE in the clouds, while the rest of us have to deal with real life situations   

Mind you, I've often been called "The Nutty Professor" by parents of my students and players.  But that was usually because many of my ideas were so down to earth that few others even thought of them

Speaking of my social media adversaries...  I got a kick out of Robinson's mention of schools discouraging students from doing things they love.  Or, as he said, kids are "steered benignly" away from things they like, on the grounds they will never get a job doing such.  And, oooooooh, does that sound an awful lot like some of the guys I deal with in social media.  Not that I'm saying every kid should be steered towards being a pro athlete, musician, whatever.  Still, neither are they all destined to be doctors, lawyers or Indian chiefs. 

Aaaaaah, that's more like it!
Let me give you a better reason for allowing kids to get into their sports...  A lot of years ago, when I was writing a hockey advice column for "Hockey/USA" magazine, I heard from a New York City school psychologist about one of the greatest benefits to sport success.  What she offered was that a youngster's self-esteem can transfer back and forth between different endeavors.  And in the case of success in the sports arena, she was suggesting was that an overflow of confidence from there would likely help him or her in lots of other areas, including in the classroom and in social circles.  As a matter of fact, I'll state firmly that, most youngsters are challenged and made to critically think more in their earliest years at a rink or on a ball field than they are in the classroom

Of course, Robinson's main premise is that we're all born with creativity, but then it's educated out of us in a typical public school setting.  Nowadays, some might believe that kids (and school systems?) are aided by the names given their supposed inflictions, plus the drugs prescribed for those.  And, in that case, can you picture that the choreographic he described was lucky to escape such a fate?

Yes, it makes one wonder, I think, how many of our kids should be rushed off to dance school or the like, and spared the traditional school strangulation.