Image credit: Kaisa Holsting
In 2006, Sir Ken Robinson gave a jaw dropping, eye-opening TED Talk, that set the internet ablaze.
In his talk, Robinson emphasized that creativity is as important as literacy and should be treated with the same status.
However, thirteen years later, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education that promotes these subjects in a more ‘cohesive’ manner, is still regarded as the ultimate goal. Education focussing on STEM subjects is touted as preparing students for the future. Girls in particular are being encouraged to pursue STEM subjects in order to close the` gender gaps in the workforce.
This is good. STEM is important.
However, sadly, creativity appears to be relegated together with literacy (reading and writing). Schools have forgotten that without reading and writing, you can’t even begin to tackle STEM subjects.
This hit home when I discovered this piece of creative writing/weekend news.
It is from a Grade 2 child at the beginning of the school year. I sent it to some Grade 2 teachers asking if they were concerned about this child (anticipating what the response would be).
They panicked and flapped, wondering how this work could be inked onto paper.
Who is this child with awful spelling?
What school is the child at?
Is she at our school?
Who taught the child in grade 1?
There was so much worry around this piece of writing. The letter formation, the spatial planning, and OMG, the SPELLING!
“Who marked this ‘Good’?” they exclaimed.
Robinson contends, that “if a child doesn’t know, they will have a go. They will take the chance and they are not afraid of being wrong. Being wrong, is part of the learning process. If you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with something original”.
This is not what I see in the classroom.
What I see, is children that are terrified of being wrong.
I see children who are so afraid to risk, that they won’t write a single word without checking the spelling first. On a Monday morning, when children write their weekend news (if at all), there is a line of children snaking from the teacher’s desk as they wait for the teacher to write their next word in their spelling-dictionary.
The child returns to their desk, copies the word into their book, and often, without even sitting down, they go back to the line at the teacher’s desk for the next word.
Immediate gratification is becoming part of the education model. Instead of children learning from creating and writing, they are being educated towards the end result – TESTING.
The ‘UN-CREATIVE WRITING’ piece below reflects this.
It is neatly printed and follows the script (even though the children were told they could add more information if they wanted to. Perhaps the children would have added more. But, that would take more time, more drafts and edits, and they only have one 30 minute lesson to complete this. There is no more time because they have a packed syllabus to get through, and more information would require more trips to the teacher’s desk.
Taking risks and veering away from the script means more red marks on the page and the possibility of having to redo the work.
The children do not have unlined jotters to write their thoughts and express their ideas as they flow. They use pencils so that errors can be easily erased.
They do not have time in their full schedules of extra-curricular activities for even more homework.
Educators are faced with the conundrum of teaching skills to children for jobs that don’t yet exist. Robinson attests that the strength of a good teacher lies in their ability to engage and stimulate children to learn. As such, it is one of the few professions that cannot be replaced by technology.
However, there is so much pressure on school readiness and teaching to test, rather than teaching to learn, that education is being reduced to the numbers and statistics of test scores, rather than learning.
There is such competition to get into the school that produces the best test results that they are being interviewed at age 2!
In focussing on the end result, I believe we are killing creativity and doing our children a disservice in preparing them for the future.
And, in case you were wondering….. The Grade 2 child who wrote that news was me.
I was 6 years old, turning 7 in Grade 2. There was no such thing as Grade R back then. My spelling at school was always a strength.
“On Saturday I went to my granny and my father knocked down a granadilla. And we went to fetch it, and we saw a bird that couldn’t fly. We picked it up and took it to the flat. A half a hour later, the bird flew away.”
The content in this story is well sequenced. It has a setting, an initiating event, a problem and a resolution. The spelling is very phonetic (except for the word ‘bord’/ bird), and this was the only error that was corrected.
It was Good!