The Need for Creativity
By Carly Scanlon
When I was nine years old, my four year old sister and I spent an entire summer’s day alone, stranded in the middle of the ocean, with only a wooden raft, heavy oversized paddles, and each other’s company as we drifted off together into the endless Atlantic Ocean. Rocking from side to side with the wind blowing our hair in every which direction we struggled to remain afloat while pulling our wooden canoe paddles through the deep cold water.
Well, that’s what I would have told you we were doing if you had asked me at the time, if you were to ask my mother, who was yelling at us to come inside for dinner, she would tell you that we were standing on a contraption made out of branches and sticks that we scavenged around the backyard for and abrading the freshly cut grass with huge paddles we found in the shed.
When I reminisce on my elementary school life I am reminded of this fierce inner conflict I faced between reality and this beautiful world that I created in my mind. A world where plastic animals came to life, a world where everything had a story, and imagination made anything possible. I once held a key that allowed me to access a secret world that only I knew of, but through the years I have been taught to hide that key, leaving the door to my imagination permanently shut as I learned to focus on reality.
Now that I am a senior in highschool, I have been yelled at so many times to stop zoning out in class that I have learned to stop thinking about non-sense, and I no longer have time after school to fool around in the yard as I have learned that homework comes first. My current reality is nice, I am content with the person I have grown into, but sometimes I wish I could just find that key, and walk myself through that door of imagination and creativity one more time.
There is a growing phenomenon suspecting that the increasing lack of creativity in today's youth correlates to the way public schools fail to prioritize it within the classroom. Is the constant stress that teachers and educators so commonly place on testing and results subliminally sending the message to today’s youth that their creativity is not needed or valued in the classroom?
Part of creativity is allowing one’s self to take a risk without the fear of failure holding them back, yet school systems from an early age instill in students this fear of mistakes by showing them that making a mistake is the worst thing they can possibly do. With these fears, children grow up learning to hold back their thoughts or creativity and learn to avoid taking risks which could potentially lead to greatness because of their fears of failure. Risk taking and being able to accept potential failure is not only an important part of one’s academic life, but it is also a vital skill that a student must translate into the rest of their life.
Upon my mission to find answers and maybe raise some questions about this issue, I decided to travel amongst my high school campus, asking a few students and teachers for their input on the topic. When asked his opinion on school’s instillment of a fear of making mistakes, Mr. Eromin strongly agreed with the point I presented, stating that “you have to have a safe learning environment where risk taking is not only okay- it's encouraged, and that students learn that mistakes are okay. I think as a teacher you really have to try to create a system where students take ownership of the learning process themselves.This process will lead to the students wanting to take risks and sparking their own interests.”
Eromin also states that this process is challenging for teachers, since they have their own strict agenda and a schedule of curriculum that they are required to adhere to.
When I asked a student about their opinion on the same question, she also agreed with the statement I made about schools creating a fear of mistakes. She states, “I strongly agree with the idea that school’s squander creativity, kids have such active imaginations and I feel like school kind of suppresses all the different routes that they can go with their learning and their creativity.”
My search for different opinions has shown me that I am not alone in my beliefs that schools do not support creativity the way they support things like test taking and test scores.
I believe that we live in a world in which every child is born with a natural basis of abilities, talents, and interests that they have to work with and it is my belief that the role of the educator is to help the child expand on these abilities and interests, whether they be academic, artistic, musical, or kinetic.
However, out of the millions of talents that one may possess, only one of these talents is currently valued by the school system. We use a education system where a student’s worth is defined by numbers and percentages when it should be calculated through work ethic, personality, outside the box thinking, creativity, and determination. If the school system can learn to stop putting so much pressure on mistakes, scores, and results children will stop fearing mistakes and begin to freely and independently. This new style of fear free learning could raise a generation of children who are ready to take risks without the fear of failure- a generation of kids who grow up to achieve great things.
At what point did I start to believe that my ability to solve a math problem was more important than my ability to use my imagination and invent things on my own? Someday I hope to open the door of creativity for students across the nation by ensuring that their imaginations, their creative minds, and their natural talents are valued and accepted and should be cherished, not squandered. Imagine a world where everyone embraced and expanded upon their creativity. Imagine what this world could be if more people learned that their talents and abilities are worth pursuing, despite the odds against them or risk of failure. Imagine.