While doing some research on design education, I stumbled across a TED lecture by Sir Ken Robinson from 2006 in which he argues that education systems worldwide are effectively and ‘ruthlessly’ killing creativity. In this wonderfully engaging and intelligent discussion, Sir Robinson states that the world’s education systems do not teach students how to be wrong, and argues that “if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” He expresses his concern that creativity and ‘the arts’ are always the subjects held in the lowest regard and importance, particularly when compared to math, science and other liberal arts. He further proposes that it is now time for creativity to have the same status, importance and regard as literacy.
I feel like Sir Robinson’s observations are spot-on. One of the most intriguing things I observe in children is their complete lack of self-censoring when it comes to drawing. If you hand a toddler a crayon and ask that toddler to draw a portrait of their mother, the toddler will immediately scribble something on the paper with no preconceptions or preoccupation that the portrait may not be perfect. They will just draw, uncensored, un-emcumbered by the notion of correct or incorrect. In contrast, if you hand a crayon to an adult and ask for a portrait, it is extremely likely that you will hear an excuse like “oh, I don’t know how to draw.” Or, “oh boy, all you’re gonna get is a stick figure.” To me, this is a perfect example of what being afraid to make a mistake looks like, and it is something that we are trained to do. As Sir Robinson says “children don’t grow out of creativity, they are educated out of it.”