Monday, February 9, 2009

Are Schools Killing Boys' Creativity?

The Times Online's blog School Gate has a blog post that asks that very question. Much of the post centers around Joe Craig, the author of the Jimmy Coates books. Here's a thought-provoking passage:

"To be creative, you have to be wrong most of the time. Unfortunately, being wrong doesn’t go down very well at school. In fact, I think creativity is being educated out of kids when they get into Secondary School, and it’s a big problem.

I frequently go into schools – primary and secondary – to talk to kids about reading, writing and my books. But instead of just talking to them, more importantly I challenge them to come up with story ideas (providing a few helpful tricks for them to start with) and get them thinking creatively.

When I visit a primary school, I’m often bombarded by dozens of ideas that amuse, surprise, entertain and sometimes even astound me. But within just a couple years that ability to conjure up the wacky, the off-the-wall, the daring – the creative – has virtually disappeared.

I’ve visited over 200 schools in the last couple of years, which means I must have run workshops for over 40,000 boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 13. By the time the students reach Year 8, I can predict almost word for word what their story ideas will be, from any given starting point. Even if they think they’re being subversive, in fact especially when they think that, the older the student is, the more predictable the ideas.

The biggest change comes in Year 7, which statistically is also when there’s the biggest drop off in reading – especially in boys. Now, it perhaps seems obvious that the withering of originality is greatly caused by reading less. But I think it’s also the other way round: they read less because their creative spark is consistently doused. Their connection with stories, with ideas and imagination, is stifled by the school environment. If the fun has gone from stories, why read?

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