When I recently watched Ken Robinson’s 2006 TED talk on how to foster creativity in education, there were already over 2,700,000 viewers. I can see why. It’s a powerful presentation on all the ways in which the natural creativity of children is gradually drained away by the way we educate them. The message is delivered with humor, insight, and humanity. His basic ideas were put in visual form, appropriately, by an RSA animate as well, which now itself has more than five million viewers.
There were a number of observations that rang true to me not just on the level of K-12 but the university as well. One was that when children are challenged to do something, they are willing to give it a shot, even if they are wrong. They’re not yet afraid to be wrong, and “if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” Because we stigmatize mistakes, we steer children away from creativity. My favorite anecdote from the presentation is the one about the kid in art class who was scribbling away energetically on a piece of white paper. The teacher asked him what he was drawing, and the kid answered: “I’m drawing a picture of God.” “But nobody knows what God looks like,” said the teacher, to which the kid replied: “They will in a minute.”
His larger point in the presentation is that we need vastly to diversify our understandings of human intelligence—of what people learn, how they learn, and how fast they learn—if we are to tap into the enormous creative power of our young people.
If you are interested in how we can do a better job of fostering innovation in our educational systems, and you haven’t seen the videos below, take a look. You won’t regret it.