Think about the immense wonder a young child possesses as they explore and discover the world. They are always full of a chorus of curious ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s.’ They carry an inborn desire to learn more about everything they see. Their minds are full of imagination and creativity. Where do all of these promising characteristics go once those children become teenagers and adults? Why is inventive originality lost instead of built upon? To find the answer we can turn to the public school system: one of the guiltiest perpetrators to blame for this loss.
During the Industrial Revolution of the United States the factory was popularized as a way to mass produce goods needed; it became a tremendous contributor to American success, and it was decided that education would follow suit and become industrialized as well. Author, Alvin Toffler, states
"Mass education was the ingenious machine constructed by industrialism to produce the kind of adults it needed...The whole idea of assembling masses of students (raw material) to be processed by teachers (workers) in a centrally located school (factory) was a stroke of industrial genius. The whole administrative hierarchy of education, as it grew up, followed the model of industrial bureaucracy. The very organization of knowledge into permanent disciplines was grounded on industrial assumptions. Children marched from place to place and sat in assigned stations. Bells rang to announce the changes of time."This idea of using schools as a sort of factory to produce well rounded adults may have worked for what was needed at the time, but it is no longer a suitable method for 21st century education. After over 100 years without alteration to the system, it is time for a change in America’s public schooling. This industrialization of education has given children a false illusion of what learning really is. An illusion that squashes their creativity and individuality. It teaches them that education is a long, boring process and that they should conform to the standard curriculum instead of pursuing what they are truly passionate about. This flawed system prevents many creative students from reaching their full potential.
A huge issue contributing to the inadequacy of school system is that it teaches students from the get-go that they are set on a linear path that must be followed in order to be successful. Education adviser and author, Ken Robinson, states during a TED Talk,
"There are things we're enthralled to in education...One of them is the idea of linearity: that it starts here and you go through a track and if you do everything right, you will end up set for the rest of your life. Everybody who's spoken at TED has told us implicitly, or sometimes explicitly, a different story: that life is not linear; it's organic. We create our lives symbiotically as we explore our talents in relation to the circumstances they help to create for us. But, you know, we have become obsessed with this linear narrative...So I think we have to change metaphors. We have to go from what is essentially an industrial model of education, a manufacturing model, which is based on linearity and conformity and batching people...We have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it's an organic process. And you cannot predict the outcome of human development."
Students begin to conform to this linear path that is preset for them instead of actually stretching their minds to their true potential. This linear path causes everything to be seen as a stepping stone. I must memorize these facts to pass the test. I must pass the test to pass the class. I must pass the class to graduate. I must graduate to go to college. Students are taught to do just enough that is needed to pass, instead of truly enriching themselves and taking advantage of each moment to learn something new and exciting. Instead of going above and beyond in further advancing their education, many students learn that they can get by doing just enough to get a decent grade.
The education system also convinces students that education has to be a painfully boring aspect of life. A child’s innate curiosity and thirst for knowledge is snuffed out by the illusion that learning is always a long boring lecture about uninteresting topics. From the moment a child begins kindergarten they are taught that education means sitting for hours at a time at an uncomfortable desk while keeping quiet and staring straight ahead. Learning is so much more than that. Learning can be going out and discovering the world: going outside and studying the beauty of nature, travelling the world and recognizing the diversity of people and their cultures; visiting historical landmarks and learning the importance of the past firsthand.
Further, the system takes away a child’s creativity by not allowing them to follow their own interests. At public schools there is a hierarchy of the subjects. Math and science are taught to be the most important while subjects like art and music are forced to take a back seat. This teaches the students that the arts should not be focused on, but that math and science are needed to be successful, so, regardless of their interests and passions, many students focus less on the subjects that bring out human’s innate creativity. Ken Robinson, states, “Many creative, brilliant, talented people think they’re not, because everything they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was stigmatized.” The problem with the public education system is that instead of being personalized to each student and allowing them to pursue their own passions, it is an industrialized place where everyone learns standard curriculum. Many educators wonder why students often have little motivation to do their work, and it can all be blamed on the flaws of the system. Perhaps if students were allowed to independently pursue their own interests then they would be motivated to let their minds thrive and grow with creativity. But instead they become a product of an industrialized system.
In order to let our youth fully embrace their passions, talents, and interests, we have to provide them with an environment that will allow them to thrive and flourish, instead of confining them to the strict curriculum of the current education system. For further detail about the topic check out Ken Robinson's TED Talk.