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School and creativity

A thought provoking talk by Ken Robinson who says that schools kill creativity. He argues that we put too much weight on discouraging mistakes that results in limiting our imagination and that we are too focused on a narrow area (mathematics, languages) instead of providing education to a broader aspect of life (arts should be on the same level as maths). The result, he continues, is due to the great influence of universities to the educational system and that we choose what is important according to job prospects, which, actually, we can not know in advance.

The speech is wonderfully delivered. In principle, I agree with the speaker. Nevertheless, I think that there is an actual need that pushes hard sciences more than arts. Right now I can identify two main components.

First, as a society, we find it easier to think in terms of right and wrong. In hard sciences, once you have defined your goal and quantify the results that you expect, you can’t get away from that. You can see whether you achieved your goal or not.

Second, arts, philosophy and humanities provide to someone a way towards a vision. The vision comes from more degrees of freedom that we enjoy in these fields. As people with diverse backgrounds, it is not always easy to accept others’ goals unless we already share the same core values. (If all people already shared exactly the same values and assuming that our environment could not change them anymore – equilibrium -, then why would we need philosophy? We could use deductive reasoning and solve most of our problems.) Too many visions/goals would lead to social instability. We are not mature enough for having too many core ideas, in the sense that the way we converse is ineffective for philosophical ideas. We usually need them written and, even then, most people are discouraged in approaching them.

Arguably, having a vision, we could set even better goals. A problem is that we don’t know for sure what better means. How could you say that a painting could be better? Once you specify exactly what your goal is and you quantify it, it stops being an art. You need some axioms. Once you have them, you can prove whether your approach is correct or not (well, not always).

That makes me think that art, philosophy etc are giving the directions. They specify what is important and what we should pursue. Then, using sciences like maths, physics etc we try to reach the goals that are already set by critically thinking. Our society now feels that there are enough ideas but not enough people to implement them. That is why hard sciences are encouraged. Still, we should not forget that as individuals, we should know the reason behind our actions, so no matter which directions we choose, we should not neglect the philosophical aspects of our actions.


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