It’s Time to Start Coloring Outside of the Lines | By Mia Grylicki

I recently watched a TED Talk given by Sir Ken Robinson, a creativity expert challenging the structure of the education system around the world. His talk was named, “How Schools Kill Creativity” and has been named one of the most viewed TED Talks of all time.

Robinson’s most powerful point is one that many would disagree with. He claims that today’s school systems are stripping the creativity and innovation of today’s youth, leaving the future for our coming generations desolate and unremarkable. He stresses that our education system, which should be propelling us into the future with knowledge, divergence and inspiration, is doing just the opposite; that because creativity is not held at the same standard of importance such as mathematics and literature, the minds of young children are being molded into a shape that will only fit within the lines. These so called lines restrict the normal, they attack the unconventional, and they reject the different types of insight, knowledge and values from those who do not fall easily under the A,B,C,D,F grading scale. We are taught that regardless, an F means failure and that a test score can hold the possibility of dimly determining your future.

I am by no means an expert in education however, I am a student and a projection of that schooling. I, like many, have been in the public education system for the past fourteen years. I remember my phenomenal fifth grade teacher who’s nurture and patience is still unforgettable. I remember the trials and tribulations of my middle school math class and how my remarkable instructor battled cancer that year and still came back to teach us about triangles. I remember my kindergarden teacher being the most wonderful influence of my early years. In hindsight, it didn’t seem all that bad. 

Looking back, I also remember that learning how to add and subtract was more important than being outside. I remember that there were only certain days that we would go to music class, and I remember kids that could not keep still and physically could not concentrate during lessons were reprimanded and sometimes punished. In comparison, these small tribulations came across as nothing in comparison to my friends attending private school. Uniforms, a harsh curriculum and punishment that could truly be felt seemed like my own personal hell.  

In his TED talk, Robinson describes how the school system instead of fueling creativity, weakens it. The loss of creativity comes from the idea that children are afraid to be wrong. He says, “We stigmatize mistakes… and we now run national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. The result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities” (6:00). Indeed educating people out of their creativity, but on top of that, we are creating an unspoken, sole path to success.

As human beings we are inclined to take not one, but many paths in which could lead to success. These paths cannot be predetermined by an idea of society and they cannot be traveled by those who are going against their will. Regarding this idea, I believe there is an extensive stereotype felt by many, that a specific path begins with good grades, great test scores, the pursuit of a college degree, followed by an outstanding career. This in turn creates a stigma and a problem for those who drop out, wait, or skip college all together. Because of this, society on behalf of the education system declares that my friend who just graduated from college is more distinguished than my friend who dropped out of school and has dreams of dancing on Broadway; my friend who failed math and belongs to three different dance companies, but graduated with an “insufficient” grade point average.

Robinson says, “There isn’t an education system on the planet [besides the specific preforming arts institutions] that teaches dance every day to children the way we teach them mathematics. Why? Why not? I think this is rather important. I think math is very important but so is dance. Children dance all the time if they’re allowed to, we all do… the consequence [of a system like this] is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at in school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized” (8:55). These specific standards of education therefore make “no child left behind” quite ironic, don’t you think? Children are left behind because they do not fit the mold, whether the mold be curriculum, language, race, etc.

Children think that they are invincible and in reality, they are. Children are driven by wonder and imagination- creativity in its most pure form. Young children do not think about failure because they are too busy fabricating- fabricating their creative ideas into reality. The predispositions that they grow into are accountable for the decline in that wonder and imagination. A decline that in reality, could be an incline. Human imagination is a gift and a spark, a spark that if not ignited will become dim and then dark.

It all starts with the predisposition that it is necessary to color inside of the lines, but why? Children are extraordinary and hold an incredible amount of creation and wonder, amounts so immense, they should not be confined within any type of line. If paper is the world and crayons are your thoughts, why would you ever restrict the beginning of what could be such a beautiful creation… 

Watch “How Schools Kill Creativity” here