VIDEO – Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?

In this thought provoking TED Talk, Sir Ken Robinson discusses how he believes creativity is as important as literacy and why.  As I think about it, from my experience, I completely agree–the skills involved in thinking creatively allow you to use academic skills to their fullest and take you to places that you can only imagine.

If you consider what it takes to innovate–make something new–thinking “outside of the box” is critical.  And, perhaps even more critical is your willingness to go out on a limb, take a risk and probably fail multiple times before you find some sort of iteration that works, at least somewhat.

Robinson says “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you are not prepared to think of something original.”  He discusses how in our society, particularly in schools, mistakes are frowned upon–if you think about those red marks on your hard work when you were a kid in school, this probably resonates.

This is an interesting thought given my current context of my classroom of 5 year olds.  Throughout the year, we try to make mistakes not such a big deal–when the kids are writing or drawing, if we’re using something permanent, I just tell them to “tweak it” if possible to make it into what they were aiming for, otherwise “make it a beautiful oops!” which involves drawing over a mistake with a heart.  I noticed that I did that a lot when furiously writing notes in college and I made a mistake.  Didn’t most of us doodle?

Of course, a little filled in heart in the middle of a word wouldn’t fly on a research paper or business proposal, but there is plenty of time for the kids to understand that context, and it will come easily if we pay attention and guide them.  At this stage in the game, I want them to know they don’t always have to have things “perfect” and that with a little attention, they can fix anything.  I want them to know mistakes are ok and definitely going to happen.  I want them to know how to pick themselves up and get going again.  I feel like this is one of the most important lessons to teach kids since there are so many obstacles in life in general and exponentially more if we try to do something significant.

We also just began our topic study on inventions.  We begin with a study of the human brain and discuss its parts and functions.  The kids learn about neurons, the hippocampus (they love that word!) and other parts, and the functions of the left and right hemispheres.  We learn about how to make your brain stronger and one of the best ways we discuss to do this is to make mistakes.  Mistakes help you to gain a deeper understanding of how something works and why.  All kinds of neural connections are made when we make a mistake and then try to figure out how to correct it.  Now, of course, one must “persevere” as we often chant in our class–when we make a mistake, there is little learned if we just give up.  A child, or an adult for that matter, must be invested in the endeavor and want to fix the mistake and progress.  There has to be an intrinsic motivation.

With all of these thoughts on mistakes, it’s apparent how important failure is to creativity and progress.  Instead of dealing out red exes (not that this ever happens in early childhood–but, maybe there are equivalents?) we need to think about how we can turn something on its head or sideways and make the mistake into success–not just because it’s correct but because we learned and perhaps created something in new as a result.


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