For the past decade, there has been endless talk about funding the arts in public and private schools.
Music, art, dance, and drama have all been vastly diminished in importance, starved from funding because literacy and mathematics have been considered more important. Ever since us ‘90s kids were in elementary school, we’ve been groomed to prioritize math and memorize periodic tables. And maybe once a week, we would have time carved out in our schedule to paint a picture or express imagination.
Children in elementary school have an unbelievable capacity for imagination: making up games on the playground, drawing a picture of what the North Pole looks like, or even giving social lives to stuffed animals. This type of imagination evokes passion, innovation, and creativity that gets educated out through years of schooling.
When was the last time you remember being wrong about something and not fearing any consequences? Kids don’t fear the consequences of being creative. Kids aren’t afraid of being told they’re wrong. If you tell them they’re wrong, you’ve just entered an completely illogical argument with a 5-year-old that you will not win. Their imagination will prosper. On the other hand, we adults have lost the capacity to understand how to be wrong and be prepared to continue using creativity.
If you ask people what they think creativity is, maybe they’ll say that it’s the ability to draw a picture without a prompt. Maybe it’s writing a song on an instrument they know how to play, or writing a fictional story for their English class.
To me, creativity is a bit different. I don’t have the ability to do any of those things, I never have, and I most likely never will. I feel that I got educated out of my creativity, yet I’m expected to just continue to have this ability of creativity on demand in class. It’s like schools understand they are killing creativity, yet continuously ask students to have such talents despite their inability to provide the environment to nourish this ability.
To this day, in college, part of your grade on a project or paper — a meaningless letter or number that will indirectly affect your future — may be a measure of creativity. Maybe the professor expects the students to make a video project “fun” by making you present information in an imaginative, funny, or artistic manner. This hard work or skill apparently provides the professor or teaching assistant with the means of assessing your intelligence on the material at a higher level than other students who lack such talents.
I ask the students and faculty at the University: Is this how we want to measure creativity? My definition of creativity is the ability to have unforced, valuable, original ideas that connect different perspectives. When creativity is forced, would you still consider it creativity? When you’re given the task of being creative, how hard is that task to you? It’s kind of like when someone asks you to tell a joke on command. How funny is that joke really going to be? Most would just resort to a crappy dad joke, or maybe something corny that has to do with oranges and bananas.
Creativity is a powerful force, yet forced creativity has the power to kill creativity. Creativity makes us diverse individuals. Forced creativity makes us try to live up to what others believe creativity should be.
This inherently contradicts the essence of creativity: If creativity is suppose to make us all unique, why is this system forcing us all into being creative in a specific way? Why is someone grading one’s creativity? When was the last time you were creative without the fear of losing points? Is this the proper system that would facilitate bright minds to contribute new, original ideas into the workforce, or into new research to tie different studies together? Is such a system truly driving UR students to be “ever better”?