Sir Ken Robinson works with critiquing and improving education systems and their priorities. In his first TED talk, the most watched of all TED talks, he discusses the important role of making mistakes in order to keep creativity alive. He states that schools educate children out of their creative powers by rebuking students for every mistake they commit.
In his most recent TED talk, Robinson argues that schools should create an environment of possibilities in which students may find their talents and develop their skills. These two ideas complement one another and, if taken as the core aim of education, have the power of shifting students’ focus from solely getting mandatory work done to using their creativity while learning and finding their passion.
You have probably heard of the concept that children learn languages faster and better than adults. Although true to a certain extent for different areas, age is not the main component of qualitative learning. Many linguists believe that children learn better not because of their age but because they do not fear failure. They don’t try to avoid making mistakes because they don’t associate it with feelings of shame or humiliation. But adults constantly watch themselves, fearing that they will commit a mistake in front of many people who judge their every move.
This lack of or low fear of failure in children is what enables them to be especially creative. But at school, children soon learn from adults that making mistakes is bad, which, in turn, leads them to filter and restrict their creativity for fear of scoring poorly or being told off in front of the class. As a result, the older children become, the more they distance themselves from their creative powers, focusing more and more on how to fit into the perfect-student mold.
How do we fix this? How should we teach all students the same disciplines (to ensure everyone gets access to equal education) without killing their individuality? One answer is that schools should expose students equally, but then let them respond personally to the disciplines. In other words, schools provide the environment of possibilities – ranging from arts to science – and students try them until they see which one they thrive in the most.
The appeal of teaching students equally under every discipline is strong, but does it really work? Did that boy who memorized all 1900s major events only to pass that exam truly learn, or will he forget it all in a few months? Would he have benefitted more had he been able to focus on learning French and Italian, the two languages he loves?
Many students end up in college having no idea what they would like to do. Perhaps this serves as a strong sign that schools do expose students to enough disciplines and applied studies. The indecisiveness may also be a consequence of fear: doubting one’s abilities to succeed and suppressing one’s creative abilities. Allowing children to exercise their creativity and inviting them to try different environments of possibilities of studies, then, may be a far better approach to education than the fear-inducing, anti-individual system that we currently have.