When young children are provided with paint and paper, they will eagerly dip the brushes into the pigment and fly with their imagination. Some years back, I visited a grade one classroom where I taught an enthusiastic group how to mix paint. Shortly after my mixing lesson, a student announced with much excitement: “Look everyone, I’ve made gold!”, and a flock of young artists came rushing over to marvel at this Magic Gold Paint.
Yet these same children have become self-doubting and critical about their ability to be creative by the time they reach their teens. They are afraid of making mistakes and view starting over as failure.
Picasso once said that all children are artists and the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. What goes wrong between glorious childhood and angst ridden adolescence? Are we teaching children to become ‘uncreative’?
Sir Ken Robinson, PhD, is an authority in the development of education, creativity and innovation. He points out that we can’t inject creativity, but have to ‘create an environment for curiosity and encourage people to get the best out of them.’ His presentation on ‘Changing Education Paradigms’ addresses the big question on how to educate children in the 21st century. Most of us are aware that our current education system was developed and conceived for a different age. I grew up in such a system: academic ability was the ultimate achievement. Being the artistic type, I did not fare too well on repetition, memorization, and standardized testing. Needless to say, my favourite subject was art, and the rest is more or less a blur!
It is evident that ‘our children today are living in the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the earth’ and we are witness to the tech invasion of computers, iphones, and social networks. New approaches on learning have to match individual learning styles. A focus on divergent thinking allows us to seek creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions and sets a platform for creating something original that has value. (Sir Ken Robinson, Changing Education Paradigms)
School reforms still emphasize standardized testing, but I feel the wind of change is blowing through education and I would like to envision the arts in a more central role, which could result in remarkable bursts of energy. Imagine a society of creative, divergent thinkers — surely a picture worth painting!