Creativity, Compliance, and Conformity

Let me begin with the following line of thinking:

Success at the highest levels of any profession requires creativity...finding new and better ways to do something. And if that's true, empowering creativity should be of the utmost importance in education.

Make sense? Think about any profession, and within that profession think about the person who is considered the most successful of all time. In nearly every case I'm willing to bet the person's creativity is what distiguished them.

But not only is creativity undervalued in schools, in my opinion schooling is actually hostile towards it. If you do a little research on the successful person you were thinking about earlier, I'll bet they either: Didn't perform well in school; didn't finish high school/college; or at the very least their true interests had to be developed away from school altogether. Am I right? Can you think of anyone at the very top of their field who raves about their time in school and credits their education for their success?

To be sure, there are many people who contribute to society in positive ways, and in no small way due to their education. Furthermore we can agree there are many (far too many) unsuccessful people who never completed school. So by and large we know that dropping out of school is not a viable choice. But when we look at the very best of the best, It seems clear to me that our education system was an annoyance to those folks, if not actually at odds with their goals. That just doesn't seem right, does it?

The thing that strikes me about our education system is how it is so heavily structured around compliance and conformity. We are so busy trying to get kids to do "what they're supposed to do" and act the same way that we forget that this exactly the type of thing that dimishshes the chance of anything truly special school.

So if you are a teacher, what are you doing to foster each student's creativity? If you are a music teacher, are your students involved in bringing music to fruition, or are they just taking orders? If you are an administrator, are you too worried about conformity to spend some time empowering tomorrow's leaders and innovators?

I'm not an expert on this by any means, it's just something that has been on my mind. I'll close with one more little irony. Isn't it true that school should be the place where the best tools and methods for learning are employed? Now think about the way schools are fretting about/supressing smart phones and Web 2.0 in our buildings. Where are kids having the richest learning experience today? If you aren't sure, ask them, they'll tell isn't at school.

Newsflash: The train is pulling out of the station, but we're still talking to the students about how to behave when (if) they board it. All aboard folks, all aboard.

4 responses
I think you are right on. I am currently teaching middle school band in Texas and find many colleagues who like to play the same songs with their bands every other year because it is safe. I think this practice also stifles creativity from the ground up as if all bands are created equal. Good post!
I was just at a conference yesterday with educators from all over Maryland discussing creativity in our schools. The one underlying theme was that embracing and presenting the challenge well as teachers will encourage our students to try. We need to support and provide an environment where risk taking is encouraged and failing is okay. Only through that will creativity flourish.
Yes...a requirement for meaningful music making!

Creativity and Craftsmanship. The big Cs