Schools kill creativity

Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions. — Oliver Wendell Holmes

I often wonder what is wrong with our schools and education system when kids are in school from five years old or younger, sometimes as young as three, leave aged sixteen and are barely able to string a sentence together, lack the ability to communicate, let alone the ability to reason.

It is bad in UK and seems even worse in the US.

Universities are little better.

A conveyor belt system suited to the needs of business.

Kids who lack the ability to think. Kids who lack motivation.

Kids who follow each other as though they are clones, even worse, corporate clones, jumping to the diktat of Big Business, which decides what they wear, what they eat, what they listen to. Don’t they have minds of their own, are they only capable of group think, that is when they think at all?

A society that has been dumbed down.

Everyone watching the same TV programmes, the opiate of the masses, or as Aldous Huxley would have called it soma. Programmes which require the attention span of a gnat.

There is a lack of understanding of science of music of art of literature.

People who are unable to hold an intelligent conversation. Whose limit of conversation is what happened on last night’s TV soap opera. Who are not conversant in foreign affairs. Who lack the ability of independent thought.

A very depressing future.

Business is little better, it employs identikit suits, not individuals. Courses are run to show people how to draw up a CV, how to present oneself at interviews, the net result all are identical clones. Kids are now being trained this way when they apply to the better universities.

Pre-school children are usually quite bright, naturally investigative, apart from those who have already had it physically beaten out of them by bad parents. They pass through school and emerge as dullards, incapable of interacting with their environment, socially inadequate, unable to express themselves.

When children were taught to read and write and do arithmetic it was not so they could better themselves, have a more enriching life, it was so they could be more productive units of production in the Dark Satanic Mills.

I was lucky, an Oxbridge education, collegiate system, lectures, seminars, tutorials, one of the privileged elite. When I came across Edward de Bono’s work on lateral thinking (and if you have not please read his books) it was not new to me, it was how I thought. But also creative thinking and logical thinking, the ability to create and then analyse many solutions extremely rapidly.

We were not taught to think, it was expected, a given.

I will always remember a tutorial and asked to explain something. I did, and was then asked why. I looked at my tutor in some puzzlement, but it was what you told us in lecture. Yes, but that does not mean it was correct.

If something was not understood, it was always well look at this way, a different way. Only those who really understand can do this. As I discovered later at another university, where with the rare exception of my own talented Greek tutor, this was not the norm.

At school I could not understand why the subjects were compartmentalised. I used to link them together.

We need a core education for life skills. Basic cooking skills. How to grow food. Learn about heat flow and you understand insulating your house. I have never understood why cooks turn up the gas on a boiling pot. It will not go above 100 C, the boiling point of water, it will not get any hotter, it will not cook any quicker.

We need a not only a broad education, but a holistic education.

Sir, why do have to read these boring books. Because that is what you are here for. No, no, no! Books are a pleasure to read, they give you a window onto the world, they stretch the imagination, they make you think.

As children we carried out chemical experiments in a shed at the bottom of the garden. It is a wonder we did not blow ourselves up. The waste from our experiments was poured over a neighbour’s vegetable patch. We probably poisoned the poor guy. We even designed and constructed our own batteries which we used to power our electrical circuits. We cleared an area in the field at the bottom of our garden and used it for a football pitch in the winter and a cricket pitch in the summer. We wandered along rivers and streams and caught fish. We kept them in fish tanks. We stole birds eggs. Morally wrong yes, and once we worked that out for ourselves, we no longer stole them. We dug people traps in sand dunes, laid grass over the top, sprinkled sand over. And yes, we caught people in them. We damned streams leading down onto a beach, then when people were on the beach, breached the dam. We climbed down into an abandoned quarry, an old clay pit for a long disused brickworks and dug out fossils, we even found fossilised logs and a fossilised tree trunk. It was a great disappointment not being able to carry our finds back home. We made ginger beer.

I find understanding, an interest in the world, a love of arts and culture of science and the natural world, is still the norm with people I know in Eastern Europe, the Czech Republic, Russia, but not so in Anglo-Saxon society, and to some extent within the education system, where intellectuals are derided, where moronic celebrity status is all.

Paulo Coelho asks us to think. Is that why his books are so popular in these countries?

We are part of the system, the system is us, it is for us to challenge and change the system. That is what St Paul’s in-the-Camp and Occupy Camps across the world are doing.


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