Musings of a Beaverton Teen: Are Your Kids Growing Out of Creativity?

By Emery Hanel (12th Grade)23 aziz-acharki-210879

Late astronomer Carl Sagan was once interviewed by TVO, a public service television station, regarding his opinion of the American education system. Sagan offered this testimony:

“You go talk to kindergartners or first-grade kids, you find a class full of science enthusiasts. They ask deep questions. They ask, ‘What is a dream, why do we have toes, why is the moon round, what is the birthday of the world, why is grass green?’ These are profound, important questions. They just bubble right out of them. You go talk to 12th graders and there’s none of that. They’ve become incurious. Something terrible has happened between kindergarten and 12th grade.”

14-year old Line Dalile echoed Sagan’s observations in her piece ‘How Schools Are Killing Creativity’. Dalile writes that at school, individuals “learned to stop questioning the world…and that [there is] only one right answer to each question”. Dalile reiterates her statement with the harsh reality that many students face at a greater magnitude with each passing year: “The ‘whys’ [students] have always wanted to ask are never on the test, and they are omitted from the curriculum.”

Sir Ken Robinson, an international advisor on education, suggested in his most famous Ted Talk that creativity is as vital to education as literacy and that nowadays, students “don’t grow into creativity, [they] grow out of it”. He highlights how the American education system fosters a fear of being wrong and demonizes the making of mistakes: two obstacles to generating original ideas. Robinson boldly states that the United States has collectively “[educated] people out of their creative capacities”.

Subjective testing and unremitting guidelines obscure the line between expressing oneself and disobeying authority. Monotonous bubble-filling on scantrons, responding to essay prompts that offer little room for exhibition of one’s personal perspective, memorizing mathematic formulas, repeated standardized testing, living in an environment where sedentary silence is necessary, an inflexible schedule– all of the above suppress human’s inborn vision for innovation. Famous painter Pablo Picasso once said that “all children are artists, [and] that the problem is how to remain an artist when [they] grow up”.

American schooling impedes one’s natural sense creativity. Instruction coaches how to metaphorically stay within the box and color in all of the lines as required, it conditions children to see “different” as “bad”, which also gives rise to bullying. Students are taught to obey, to conform, rather than to question their world, to be eccentric and open to enlightenment. Students learn from an early age that compliance equals success rather than perceptive thinking equals societal change.

The Torrence Tests of Creative Thinking indicated that children have become less emotionally and verbally expressive, less energetic and passionate, and less imaginative and unorthodox as they go through the American education system. Failure is condemned by the general culture of American education, discouraging students from being original and taking creatively-inclined risks.

We need change or our world will never improve.

  • So be unique. Be messy. Be bold.
  • Take a chance on yourself.
  • Think outside of the box. Color outside of the lines, outside of the paper, outside of the table.
  • Illustrate your world how you want to see it.
  • Learn what you want to learn.
  • Read, read as much as you can. And most importantly, love. Love one another unflinchingly. Love unapologetically. Just love, accept, and create together.

Emery Hanel is graduating this month Jesuit High School and we wish her the best of luck in college on the East coast..