Why we should encourage our children to follow a creative path.


Why is creativity  undervalued ? Especially at a high level secondary school?

I’ve just been to a parent’s evening at school. It’s the beginning of the 3rd year at secondary school and the talk is about ‘your school profile’, the direction of your study.

My daughter scored the maximum in a junior school test that determined her secondary school level. They tested her in maths, reading and writing. So now she in the highest academic level at secondary school. But they didn’t test her on creativity, innovation, music and storytelling. Her passions in life were not worth testing, not valued, not worth knowing.

Traditionally, an academic study was the way to go. You learned lots of ‘stuff’ that other people didn’t know… and that gave you an advantage to get a good job, money, status and security. But the world is changing very fast and the school education system is lagging behind, especially at the highest level. Along with normal academic subjects, my bright creative child is also learning 2 dead languages in a mind numbingly boring way. Outdated curriculums and school snobbery are making kids memorise Greek and Latin words… to regurgitate them on a given day, at an allocated time. These subjects are irrelevant, obsolete, and the method is archaic. Days, months, YEARS spent memorising individual bits of information is Dickensian! We have created computers to ‘think’ exactly like this, and they do it pretty well. They ‘know stuff’, they add up numbers, analysis data. They build cars (except for those tricky sticky carpets!). They land planes. They even decided what to buy and sell on Wall Street because with the addition of big data they can be as impulsive as you or I. But you want my creative child to memorise 400 Greek words in a week? Please!!

But anyway…things are brightening up because in the 4th year you can choose your path. Is it to be…

  • Culture and society ?
  • Economics and society ?
  • Nature and health ?
  • Nature and technology ?

For my daughter is an obvious choice; Culture. Just a pity that one dead language has to be included in the final 8 subjects.

I thought the presentation from the teacher was quite down to earth. There was a gentle recommendation to “Choose what you like” “Do what your good at”. I thought she was struggling a bit to promote the Culture Profile. There was a weird thumbs up… “A good ‘arts’ diploma is also a fantastic result”(?) Is that a back handed compliment to my profession or what? Some of the questions from the parents were stratospherically scary! Someone asked about doing 9 or 10 subjects! Someone even asked about an 11th! The teacher responds with the statistics and says “You can always drop a subject that’s not in your packet, and a year of Biology is always a bonus!”.

But IS IT? 

At what cost?

Which passion gets killed??

You can only spend time ONCE and ‘Playtime‘…is so important they rooster it in at Google!

Another parent feels that if his child chooses an Arts profile that later, without physics and chemistry, that their career choice will be limited. The teacher softly warns of parental pressure. She tells a story of a student that did the science packet with the extra arts subjects. She got fantastic grades in the subjects she loved but not in the chosen science profile and so she failed! The moral of the story, “You should follow your heart”. It feels like an encouraging little pep talk for the creative packet that other profiles just don’t need. I felt the teacher grappling to support the Culture profile within a school that has a history and a curriculum that doesn’t. This type of school is notorious for elitist parents putting pressure on their kids to get a ‘proper diploma’. Some of them have spent years getting their kid into this level and they are not going to let the kids blow it now by choosing Culture! If there aren’t enough children choosing Art and Music in the 4th year it doesn’t go ahead. It’s dumped! But Greek and Latin are compulsory! When are we going to look around and see its not necessary and adds little to the world of tomorrow? These children were traditionally destined to go into the top professions, Doctors, Pilots, Managers, Leaders of the workspace.

But the workspace in has changed beyond recognition in a few generations!

My Grandad had a ‘job for life’ having started as an apprentice electrician. Now his job is fully automated, non existent. Other jobs are outsourced, cheaper and faster to do in Asia. People used to look at you sideways if ‘you couldn’t hold a job down’. Nowadays If your not a job hopping lily padder, your not learning!! I was the first in my family with a college degree, it was an investment and an achievement. Now a college degree doesn’t mean the same thing. Google, aka The Chocolate Factory because of its quirkiness has a whole new method of hiring based on behavioural interviews NOT college results. They are increasingly hiring people who have no formal education, because something is missing in that education and they have more than enough people with an impressive diploma! Everybody is waking round 24/7 with a computer that can access almost any information they need. And they are using it. Young people are constantly reinventing themselves. In comparison to the workspace my kid is following a school curriculum with methods that are positively Victorian. It can’t keep up and it doesn’t seem to want to!?

What are we doing to our brightest children? On a global scale the problems for mankind are huge! Climate change, overpopulation, wars, terrorism, the distribution of wealth.

We will be needing some very creative solutions from very creative humans with the imagination to combine unrelated knowledge in surprising holistic solutions. They will have to be inspired not brain cudgeled with Greek.

We trundled through the Agricultural era. The Industrial age gathered momentum and the Information Age went by at warp speed and we are now in the so-called Conceptual Age where right-brained skills such as design and storytelling, an ability to inspire, play, teach with empathy, communicate with meaning, and create will put you at an advantage. These qualities will be crucial to the future of the human race and also to us personally. These skills increase well being, relieve stress, create purpose and give meaning. They improve our personal lives in a rapidly changing world. They make people less prone to stress, they see the bigger picture, not the individual problems. It makes them more resilient at a deeper personal level.

A right brained creative path is a no-brainer!

In our world it takes 10 bath tubs of water to produce 1 beef burger!… And too many of us thinks that’s fine!? But we’re f@&ked if we keep thinking like that.

We need people who look bigger, broader. We need people who are empathic, caring, holistic, creative, innovative, communicative and very smart. We need right brain thinking and skills. The future of The World needs it! We need creatives with the imagination to combine unrelated knowledge into brand new solutions. 

Last night Mum and daughter listened to the Spoken Word Festival which featured Dr John Cooper Clarke reading ‘I wanna be yours.’ It’s an angry poem where he reduces himself to a mere commodity, like a beef burger, in an attempt to be desired. The Artic Monkeys transformed it into a beautiful love song. It was an inspired 2 minutes, celebrating the magic of words. It was innovative, intriguing, laugh-out-loud-thought-provoking! It bridged our generations …and it even rhymed. You can’t outsource creativity!

This morning I read,

Doctor diagnoses himself with cancer using his iPhone”… Yep, I saw that one coming…So watch out all you medical students in the first year of your 6 year study. Maybe the app will be finished before you are..

When will we wake up? The straight and narrow is stifling us!

When will our brightest children be actively encouraged to follow the creative path?