Unleashing Human Creativity: Education and the Revival of Human Imagination

It may seem cliché, but we are all born with a unique set of gifts. Each of us is distinct from one another with different genes, cultural upbringings and life experiences. Moreover, we all have our own interests, passions and value that we can offer the world. No one quite sees or interprets things like we do.

Rather than inspiring authenticity and creativity, our education system seems to do the opposite. Motivated by well-intentioned ambitions to standardize learning and increase test scores, schools can often inadvertently take the inherent joy out of learning. Standardized testing promotes conformity and diminishes the limitless imagination of children. We are taught to think the same, to stay within a confined set of boundaries.

 Education becomes mechanical, a cookie-cutter or ‘one-sized’ fits all model. The late education scholar Ken Robinson compares the school system to an assembly line in a factory.  

Ringing bells, separate facilities, specialized into separate subjects. We still educate children by batches, you know, we put them through the system by age group. Why do we do that? Why is there this assumption that the most important thing kids have in common is how old they are? You know, it’s like the most important thing about them is their date of manufacture.

If we want to respect the unique gifts of students, our education needs to be flexible and adaptable. It must aim to cultivate and celebrate the different kind of learning styles of students. The issue is that the current model of education places a high emphasis on a narrow and limited kind of intelligence, academic ability. If a student does not score well on tests and receive high grades, we tend to view them as unintelligent.

But how about if the problem isn’t the student, but rather the school’s outdated ways of assessment?

The Harvard professor of education Howard Garner argues that there is a broader range of human abilities that go beyond those which can be measured in a standardized test. Howard notes that there are at least eight forms of intelligence which capture the full scope of human potential. These include: linguistic, logical, spatial, bodily, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic.

 Rather than, creating one type of evaluation for all, Garner’s theory implies that teachers should adapt their learning styles to the unique needs of their students. This requires teachers to be more cognizant of the diversity of their students, and to adapt their teaching styles to ensure it captures the various developmental needs of their class.   

Like many, I have memories of cramming for exams only to forget the material of the subject a couple days after. Would my time have been better served by other modes of assessment which allowed me to apply and internalize the information I learned in more engaging ways?

In my view, the primary aim of education should be to instill a love of learning in the student. To allow an individual to satisfy their curiosity and imagination. When we are given the right tools and instruction from our teachers, we become immersed and passionate about the material we are studying. We look willfully engage with the material and look for new solutions and novel ways to apply what we’ve learned.

The individuals who inspire me personally are those who think differently, who look at the world in unique and innovate ways. Those who challenge the status quo, and risk being looked at as ‘strange’ or ‘weird’ by the public. Thinkers like Albert Einstein or Benjamin Franklin  may have performed poorly in school, but each would revolutionize their respective fields in innovative ways. Making your own path and going against the grain enables society to move forward. As the inventor and physician Edward de Bono notes,

There is no doubt that creativity is the most important resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.

Education therefore should aim to inspire, cultivate our unique gifts and allow us to reach our full potential as human beings. This not only will benefit students but also society as a whole as we reap the rewards of the creativity of others. 

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

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Source Image: Pexels Free Photos

This article was originally posted on my personal blog: A Life of Virtue: Philosophy as a Way of Life – In Search of Inner Freedom

15 thoughts on “Unleashing Human Creativity: Education and the Revival of Human Imagination

  1. Agree with the majority of what you say Andrew. 🙏🏼 On a practical level, to put that into operation, the education system needs better funding, more recruitment of teachers and educators, and improved monitoring. It does here in the UK anyway!

    1. Margaret you’re entitled to your opinion but I see it differently,it’s not about funding but it’s all about a shift in education philosophy. This the hallmark of everything.
      What’s the philosophy for education systems?
      Unfortunately,our education systems seem to lack philosophical framework to guide it thus why capitalists have taken it over and all trading their self interests,all out to control a people / society but not to cultivate a thinking society.

  2. Just yesterday I posted at The Old Books Blog about an old set of children’s topical encyclopedias, Our Wonder World: A Library of Knowledge in Ten Volumes (Howard Benjamin Grose ed., Geo. L. Shuman & Co., Chicago and Boston, 1918, 1st ed.1914). I asked if for many people, especially children, the wonder has left their lives. The post includes a short video (4 min., philosopher Jesse Prinz who’s been writing about wonder for some time) on the lost emotion of wonder. It emphasizes how wonder is truly something only humans can feel. To *experience* wonder is the first step toward creating human-produced wonders.

    Speaking to your point about individual uniqueness, the wonder of topical encyclopedias is a kid sitting on the floor just thumbing through them, stopping at what interests him or her, having his attention caught by something new. Highly recommended if you have kids.

  3. The discussion is focused on an ideal, the way things should be, with should being a totally useless word. In fact, many children are caught in a death spiral, with parents who place no value on reading and learning and teach the child the same. The ideal is for the favored and lucky.
    My mother taught college English for many years and darkly recalls the wannabe teacher whose sole reason for teaching was to get the summer vacation available in no other career. With that as raw material and current class sizes approaching 60 students in some schools, we are so far from the ideal to make it ludicrous.

    1. I agree that this type of thinking may seem idealistic, especially given the budget constraints and pressures that one faces in attaining an economically viable education. However, I would view education as much broader than ‘schooling’. I think there is value of reviving the ancient notion of education of fulfilling one’s full potential as a human being

  4. Granted Vic.
    Whenever favour and lucky gets into such conversations,competition which is the enemy of creativity creeps in. That’s scarcity mindset.
    Creativity / effortless creation can only be possible in a free world out of competition,an abundance mindset.

  5. The education system you describe is the American public school system. My grandkids are currently going through it, but in our family we encourage individual expression and exploration of interests, to develop their skills and personalities in ways the schools can’t. Still, there are opportunities for kids to explore different skills by taking different classes.

  6. In many places, educational decisions are made by bureaucrats and legislatures rather than the people in the trenches. There is so much distrust of educators that the power that be tie their hands.

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