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Is education killing creativity?

British reporter Riz Khan put together a nice 20 minute interview last week with Sir Ken Robinson, our favorite creativity and education expert (and famous TED presenter). Even if you've seen Sir Ken's 2006 TED presentation, you'll find this interview an entertaining and thought-provoking refresher. Rizwan Khan is a veteran of the BBC and CNN; he currently hosts the Riz Khan Show on Al Jazeera English.

Part 1
In part one Riz shows a clip from Dr. Robinson's 2006 TED talk. Sir Ken starts out his conversation with the host by suggesting that our education systems (around the world) are outdated and mainly designed to meet the needs of industrialization. Sir Ken makes many good points — some you may not agree with — but he certainly is not saying that math and science should be taught or studied less, rather that music and the arts and creativity in general should be pursued more.

Part 2

In part two Sir Ken tells a couple of interesting stories and makes the point that talent is often buried quite deep within a student and it does not surface until the conditions are right. His new book The Element deals with exploring the conditions that help students find their own "element."

I hope you can take 20 minutes today and watch this interview above. If nothing else, it'll make you think about your own education or the education of your children, etc. When I look back at my own K-12 education, it's really all a blur. How about you? If I could do it all over again, I would study the arts far more deeply and from an earlier age. But I also would take far more science and math classes too. I do not know what an ideal education is, but I think Sir Ken is right when he says we need to transform formal education not just reform it.

I really admire the K-12 teachers of the world, they have the toughest and most important jobs in the world. I never had the talent or courage to be a teacher, but I appreciate the work they do and the challenges they face. Does anyone even have a clue what formal education will look like in the future?

Sir Ken Robinson's website.
Sir Ken's 2006 TED talk.


Bertrand Maltaverne

Same comments as the ones you have on missed opportunities at school. I would have spent more time studying fields like arts & humanities…

Regarding how education should look like in the future, well, I agree with Thomas Friedman in “The world is flat” ( ) when he says that somehow education must make people become “synthesizers”. Synthesizers are the opposite of rigid mindsets. They mix various influences (cultures, arts…) and skills (math, IT…) to enable them to create new products/ideas/concepts and to be better responsive to the unknown…

Being French and having been educated in the French educational system, I fully understand how being trained early on as an “expert” in a specific field narrows down your visions and reduces opportunities… It requires much more efforts to counterbalance your unbalanced education. It becomes a personal investment and quest, a sort of continuous improvement (“kaizen”, right?) to learn new skills and explore new areas. To me, the goal of education should be to give you the taste for learning and exploring new areas, always…

I recently came across this video TED that also illustrates how education sometimes hinders our thinking process:

Thanks for the blog, for the book… PZ is a great source of inspiration!

Shirley Smith

Sir Ken is dead-on in his assertion that education needs to be transformed. In order to teach this and future generations of digital learners, we must redefine literacy for the 21st century. If and when this revolution occurs, the Industrial Age model still in use today in formal education will look dramatically different. Educators such as myself have a lot to learn from you and others as we go about trying to "be the change we want to see". Thanks for the inspiration!

Michael Vanderdonk

As a professional educator, I echo Sir Ken's and your own comments.

To answer your question, the best clue I have today (tomorrow will be different of course) is CCK08 -

For something that humans do so well, we still know very little about learning...

Mohammed S

To be honest, I came from a country that have the worst education system in my opinion so, i chose to come to U.S which I hope I can find the place I want. Anyway, I had a programming class last semester & because i'm a person who deals with CODE, I couldn't understand the way he asked us to memorize things in the textbook which I don't think real life needs it.....

At the end of the semester, I ended up with %100 on all my project, and lab work. However i got F on the class because the professor needed us to memorize everything in the book . In other words, he gave me %15 of the grade for the lab work & the rest is based on the test we had which you have to remember from the textbook.....

he killed my creativity & my enthusiasm .....

BTW, He sent me an email that says " How did you think for a minute that you can get more than F"


This is where I went to K-12 (boarding) school, in Oxford from 1974 to 1978 : the Dragon School (

With great music, art, sport and academic results, they still watered the playground during freezing nights to organise sliding and skating the next day; they organised snow fights on the sports' grounds, and put off classes to warmer days.

Excellent teachers with great personalities, principles and a long termine strategy, defended by a strong and respected headmaster : simply one of the best schools in the world.



that was meant go be "long term strategy", sorry.


There are some interesting points here, but at least in the US it's not true that math and science are at the top and things like art and dance are at the bottom. In most states high school curricula, only 2 years of science and 3 of math are required (4 years total). The math you can take to pass is often pretty weak. California and New York are the strictest at requiring algebra.

Meanwhile, many states require 4 years of physical ed, and nearly every kid does extracurricular sports, dance, etc.

The US will be importing tens of thousands of foreign students to grad school, and to industrial jobs in science and engineering for a long time to come, I think.


Too much emphasis is placed on left brain thinking at the expense of the right brain.

I dont necessarily consider myself as extremely creative, however, perhaps if there was more encouragement in school to develop the creative side, it could have been a bit more different.

School is definitely a blur for me.

David Greenberg

The problem with the 19th century mentality around education is that all assessment is quantitative. Unfortunately, creativity cannot be measured so easily in quantitative terms. Nor can the interdisciplinary, authentic, inquiry-based learning activities which are gaining popularity. I think as more teachers make it the responsibility of the learners to learn, students will begin to learn in ways that make sense for them individually. It is more important today to learn how to learn than to learn facts that will be outdated with two or three years.

The biggest irony of all is the fact that, given today's technology, it is incredibly easy to be creative. Long ago, I wanted to work in a recording studio with access to a $250,000 Ampex 16 track tape recorder. I now have software on my laptop that is more powerful and cost next to nothing.


Appropriate title...looks like education is killing...however, what you study never turns out to be what you end up doing....

Carles Caño

I am a teacher and I agree Ken Robinson's point of view but I think that we can boost creativity not only adding subjectes like dance or music but changing the students role from passive to active on every field.

Let's teach them to think, analyze, create contents, solve problems, criticize, make questions, share with others, do real team working...

Educational changes take time but there are some new ways to teach and learn. For example "Problem Based Learning" (PBL, a student centered strategy instead of the typical teacher centered one.

I try to add methods that increase my students participation and creativity although it is not always so easy to do :)

As an example, I taught last year a subject about using Microsoft Office. We obviously did Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Instead of just explaining how to use the Powerpoint tool I talked them about how to create visual presentations and I presented them "Death by Powerpoint" and "Taking your slide deck to the next level".

They did some presentations and they were still with the old way, putting a lot of text, many bullets and awful Powerpoint templates. Some sessions later almost everyone grabbed the idea and then they had to make an oral presentation on a particular subject (and I assessed them and put them marks).

I uploaded the best ones to and they are very visual. Actually, if you don't see the student speaking you won't get most of the presentation (unless you read the notes). Well, that was the idea, the student IS the presentation and the slides helps him or her to make it funnier, more visual, etc.

These presentations are in Spanish or Catalan but you can see at least that they are simple and quite visual. Don't expect to find awsome presentations but I'm really proud of my students work ;)

You can reach them at my SlideShare account:


I think a good education would take into account how children learn and develop, be based as much on the development of the person as on accumulating information, and lead to educational outcomes that matter to teachers, parents, community/business leaders. These include creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, communicating, relationship-building, conflict resolution and the like.
The key is to provide a learning environment that takes into account how children learn and develop. This would include things like supportive teachers, integrated development, recognizing that children learn differently, and encouraging children's natural tendency towards learning.

Breanna Hite

I think it is less an issue of what is taught than how it is taught. Creativity and intellectual curiosity in any subject can be killed by limiting the material students are given (have you read a high school textbook recently?), and any subject, even the more left-brain ones, can be exciting and creativity-inspiring under the right circumstances.

I just hope that educators are able to embrace new technologies and post-industrial ways of learning effectively. So many ideas get reduced to the education-institution version of bumper sticker wisdom, meaningless catchphrases that don't actually change the way anyone does things.

online degree

Education do not kill creativity but it engrave the existing to more beautiful thing.

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