Teachers are Creativity Crushers

There seems to be a bit of a resurgence of late in the tired, hackneyed, Sir Ken Robinson mantra ‘schools kill creativity’. While it is definitely jaded, a bit of spit and polish brings it up like new. While I have no problem with people having this view, I expect them to be honest and admit that they must also have a poor opinion of teachers to think that schools really do kill creativity.

No I know that people, including Sir Ken, will say that it’s not the teachers it’s the school system that has students slumped stupefied at their desks or snoring in their lime green bean bags. In fact many doomsayers will proclaim they have great admiration for teachers. But if ‘schools’ murder creativity, then teachers, who are actually doing the teaching, where the rubber meets the road if you will, must be complicit in this, or at the very least helpless to inspire student creativity.

You can’t have it both ways. Teachers are great inspirational professionals, but schools are suffocating the lifeblood out of kids, just doesn’t wash. Funnily enough the educators that blog and tweet the Robinson mantra, rarely say that their own classrooms are creative wastelands. If fact you are most likely to hear the schools kill creativity war cry during edchats about creativity and innovation, where everybody is telling each other that their classrooms are positively awash with creative juices.

So I’m hopeful that we can move on from a profession that stands and cheers when charismatic entertainers proclaim that our places of work are hollowed out shells of pathetic, mind numbing, robotic conformity. I’ve been a public school teacher for a long time, and I never cease to be amazed at the creativity and innovation going on in our classrooms. If you are an educator and you don’t agree, it might be time for you to try your luck on the celebrity speaking circuit. Remember, the harder you sink the boot into schools, the more popular you will be.

2 thoughts on “Teachers are Creativity Crushers

  1. Yeah maybe I will blog about this then. I was talking about this with my students today, just after watching the Famous Talk.

    The line from the talk that gets me every time is that creativity is stifled, when you are afraid to be wrong. This has happened to my students studying in my (yes, freaking amazing as it could be) classroom for HSC English. Just try and convince a Year 12 kid about to do a high stakes exam to take a risk.

    It also happens to me in my own teaching – now I’m in a university where my promotions and awards all ride on my teaching scores, I run a massive risk every time I am creative with pedagogy and assessment. Some semesters I am at a loss, very afraid to be wrong and pay the price, so I play it safe.

    I also love the point he makes in his talk about the school system basically being a protracted university admission process, and about curriculum hierarchies. Pretty hard for teachers in Arts subjects to do anything amazing when their lessons are cut from the timetable because they “aren’t really that important”.

    It’s also much easier to be creative as a teacher once you have a full time ongoing position. My graduates in QLD are all looking at contract work on graduation. They tell me they know they aren’t allowed to rock the boat otherwise they risk long term employment. And they’re worried that after 3+ years working on contracts this way that their desire to be creative and take risks will be quashed as they develop habits of compliance and complacency.

    Look, I take your point. But I’m really with Ken on this one. Good on you if you have enough personal desire to innovate, energy to teach well, and job security to feel confident in your practice. But the stories I hear from many prac students (in English) are of entire school semesters spent getting ready for NAPLAN. Maybe a better metaphor than ‘kill’ is what you’re after. But I sure do feel like I could be more creative as a school teacher if I didn’t have to parcel out my pedagogy into 60 minute chunks to serve an old world timetable, in a system that organises learning by age group, under the constraints of rubric-obsessed and exam-oriented assessments.


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