Are Schools Killing Creativity?

By: Guest | October 27, 2011 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Craig McBreen.

Years ago, there was a boy who spent much of his school day staring out the window, daydreaming.

To him, school was like the clink – a penitentiary so void of inspiration his imagination often left the room.

His creative spirit needed an outlet, but it was so stifling in there.

Kids dream big

Children are imaginative and not afraid to be wrong, but we often lose this as we grow up. Do we grow out of it or does the system drain it out of us?

Innate abilities lost over time? Or are they never discovered? Passions are lost.

Factories can’t teach

Our current educational system is a product of nineteenth-century industrialism. It is a model with a limited focus on specific subjects, considered beneficial a long, long time ago. That place isn’t far, far away, but it sure feels like it. This tired setup works for some, but many are left to wither on the vine.

One size doesn’t fit all

Most students receive a one-size-fits-all solution, not the creative or critical thinking they need.Kids don’t learn the same way. There are different types of intelligence: Kinesthetic, musical, linguistic, spacial, etc. People excel in certain areas, but struggle in others, yet our system demands children fit into one box and learn the same subjects, the same way.

In a post on his new book, “We Are All Weird,” Seth Godin wrote,

During the age of mass (mass marketing, mass manufacturing, mass schooling, mass movements) the key was normal. Normal was important because you needed (were required) to fit into your slot.

Well, the new normal is a bit abnormal, and uncommon little shapes don’t fit into perfectly square holes. Weird is in.

But … Billy’s odd AND distracted

Growing up in one of the most stimulating environments ever, kids have the ability to communicate with anyone, anywhere. All. The. Time. And we wonder why they’re preoccupied. If kids have difficulty, we often decide there is something wrong with them, or seek to medicate. Are they ill-suited for learning or are there defects in a system that tries to box them in?

The fundamental principals of public education need to be razed and rebuilt

Post-industrial economies rely on creativity and inventiveness. It is imperative the United States (and the world) have school systems designed for the twenty-first century. And with technology quickly replacing people, isn’t this more important than ever?

We often hear jobs are going overseas, but America will always be strong because of its intellectual capital and creative spirit. Problem is, we rarely ask our students to think creatively. As Alanis Morissette would say, “Isn’t it ironic.

So, what about solutions? 

  1. Shut down the assembly line. Toss the factory model to make way for more organic and dynamic development. Foster the differences in kids and create a curriculum that brings out these unique talents.
  2. Standards must go. Of course you need core standards, but not just in math, writing, and the humanities. What about fundamental skills in communication, arts, software, and trades? Nothing wrong with standards, just the obsession with them.
  3. School shouldn’t be a snooze-fest. Ditch rote learning in favor of engagement. Focus on creative and critical thinking in all subjects. Cultivate inventiveness through the technology kids are so immersed in anyway.
  4. Nourish spirit and passion. Create conditions where kids can flourish.
  5. Invest in great teaching and teacher development. Just think how creative teachers could be if they weren’t so focused on standardized tests.
  6. And finally, back off Tiger Mom. Parents often steer kids away from their true talents, for a more conventional route to success. We need to broaden that spectrum.

It’s time for change.

With budget cuts, the pace of bureaucracies, and resistance to change, this might not happen anytime soon. Regardless, it is time to rethink the current system, or maybe that good old American ingenuity will be a thing of the past.

Maybe a good PR campaign is in order.

Do yourself a favor and check out Sir Ken Robinson’s speech on A brilliant and engaging speech which summarizes this topic oh so well.

Will high-tech companies and innovators simply force these changes without government mandates?

Do you agree or disagree? Is this a pipe dream?

Craig McBreen owns and operates McBreen Design, but you can also find him at A rookie blogger and student of social media, Craig is originally from Baltimore, but now lives in Seattle, with his wife and two kids.

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  • In concept, I agree with you. People learn at different rates and in different styles and should be able to be accommodated to have the best chance to succeed. In practice, I think it’s a pipe dream. Not because teacher don’t want to make it happen, it’s that they can’t. They don’t have the money or support to achieve more than a one-track curriculum based on a set of standardized tests.

    Government has been the biggest problem. They keep on cutting education funding so it requires school districts to keep on coming back to the people to ask them to pay more taxes to pay for the most basic of educational services. The people are milked dry and are now refusing to contribute anymore.

    And it’s a sad state of affairs when we as people think our children are not worth investing in. And investing in education means investing in teachers. Giving teachers the resources they need to do what you say Craig will help kids to be able to dream big again.

    Groups like Battelle 4 Kids is trying to change this but it is going to take some time before people are convinced that human capital is worth the investment.

    • @Anthony_Rodriguez Hi Anthony, Thanks for the thoughtful comments. This makes me wonder if we will need to rely on the high-tech companies and innovators as I mentioned above. I wonder? Maybe they will slowly force changes to the system and it will all trickle down. I know it’s already happening, but these are private, not public schools.

      Unfortunately public schools will be slow to catch up, regardless. And if this does happen, will this innovation separate the haves and have-nots even more?

      I certainly agree with you that government is part of the problem, but there is also this mentality out there that the old model works fine. I think changing that attitude would be a great start. The old setup doesn’t quite work and we really do need a big change. Also, the current government solutions proposed aren’t really enough.

      Imagine if a portion of our defense spending went to education. That probably is a pipe dream.

      I need to check out Battelle 4 Kids. Thank you!

      • @CraigMcBreen At least in Ohio, we know the model doesn’t work, the Supreme Court of Ohio has found funding for schools unconstitutional multiple times but the legislature has not done anything to change it in more than 10 years. And because of it, school districts and teachers are sometimes seen as not using the funds they are given wisely, when in fact there is too much being relied on from one pool of money.

        • @Anthony_Rodriguez Well it’s a good idea to require a state to fund public education efficiently, but sounds like you’re in a holding pattern over in Ohio. Must be quite the hot bottom issue with the current admin.

        • @Craig McBreen Actually, it’s the furthest thing from their mind. They are more interested in disenfranchising voters and preventing police, firefighters and teachers from negotiating fair wages and equipment. School funding has been on the minds of the people for a long time, it just seems to continue to be ignored.

        • @Anthony_Rodriguez Something that really can’t be ignored … These kids are our future.

  • FollowtheLawyer


    Your post brings up a lot of points that resonate with me, the father of a restlessly inquisitive 6-year-old. You might want to check out the book “NurtureShock” by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. It challenges both traditional and “progressive” notions of how kids are/should be taught.

    I SO wish you hadn’t cited Alanis Morissette’s “Isn’t It Ironic” insofar as she apparently didn’t learn the meaning of irony in school. The vignettes described in the lyrics are bad luck, not irony. Although, that makes the title ironic. Maybe that’s the song’s genius 🙂

    But that’s just my bugbear…

    • @FollowtheLawyer Yes, six-year-olds are pretty darn inquisitive, that’s for sure. When my kids were that age I always wondered if the advice I gave them was the best, but you’re constantly questioning yourself as a parent, right? Now I’m advising a 17-year-old, but he doesn’t listen as well 🙂

      I know of Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, but haven’t read “NurtureShock.” It’s now on my reading list though, thanks.

      Ha ha. Yes, I know. I know, but I just couldn’t resist 🙂 She’s been panned on YouTube for a while on this, hasn’t she? But I do think people often misuse the word.


  • Better, abolish all schooling after 10th Grade. Try to imagine one thing that we learned after the tenth grade which is actually useful to us now. Integral Calculus? Organic chemistry? Statistical Analysis? Is there even one thing that we are actually finding useful NOW?

    • @Raj-PB Raj,

      For me, it was chemistry, but don’t get me started on Statistical Analysis 🙂 I certainly was not a good student. I kind of agree. I think many of these subjects are worthless to certain kids. For some, it’s perfect though, but buy 10th, 11th grade kids should be a path that really follows their skill set. A well-rounded one of course.

      There is so much emphasis on college prep too, and some kids just take this route because they think it’s what they should do. There are many, many smart, capable college graduates out of work. They learn to get creative when they are finally out of school, because they have to to find work.

      Also, what about the trades? They are in much better shape then many college graduates in this economy.

  • I love the Ken Robinson talk.

    • @TheJackB

      Hi Jack,

      I think I’ve watched it about 15 times 🙂 There is a more recent TED talk, you should check that one out as well.

      • MSchechter

        @Craig McBreen@TheJackB Have you guys ever seent he RSA animated version of his talk?

        • @MSchechter@TheJackB Now I have 😉 Brilliant synopsis. Thanks!

        • @MSchechter@Craig McBreen no, but I should probably look it up.

    • @TheJackB Me too! I can watch it over and over and feel so inspired to learn creatively and I’m long time from school.

      • @Collectual This RSA animated version is really, really cool!

  • My son is pretty advanced for his age. He is a natural stat-head (with his love of baseball this is not a surprise) and also does math in his head. Every day he complains that school bores him to death because it is not challenging enough.

    The third grade spelling words he has are words he learned in kindergarten when he was in private school. The public school system is a mess.

    When I was in school, I was a prolific writer, and described by some as “a long lost relative of Edgar Allen Poe” yeah. I was pretty dark. Thankfully, I became a writer and chose my own path. Many are not so fortunate.

    The system is broken and may not be fixable. What a shame.

    • @NancyD68 Hi Nancy, Funny that Raj and I wrote about Statistical Analysis below 😉 When I mention creativity … or should I say, when an expert like Ken Robinson mentions creativity, he is talking about all subjects: Math, Science, etc. They should all be taught more creatively. That’s a big challenge and I just wanted to pose the question. Is it possible?

      The good thing is your son has you to challenge him, but that should be done during the day at school of course.

      Yes, the public school system needs some fixing, and in a vast country like ours that fixing will take some serious effort and time, but it needs to be done. And certainly not just in the U.S.

      • @Craig McBreen He loves math so much and so we do relate it to baseball. Since he understands batting average and ERA already, he understands percents. We also to talk about him going to college. He knows what a scholarship is and has told me he is going to get one!

        • @NancyD68 Man, now I’m even more impressed. If he likes stats, I can think of no better game than baseball. I know it’s an entirely different subject, but I listened to an interview with the guy who wrote “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” It’s really about an analytical approach to putting a team together with little money, but the book sounded interesting.

        • @Craig McBreen I am considering taking him to the movie. 🙂 What is amazing is it is not just Yankee players he knows. It is all of MLB! He knows facts about all players. He asks me to get him the paper so he can read the sports section!

        • @NancyD68 Ha ha, sounds like he is going on 40 😉 Very cool.

  • MSchechter

    Great post and too true. I was worried that you werent going to hit on the budget concern, but I’m glad you did at the end. My wife is a teacher and in a high need school in NYC’s lower east side to boot. The system is screwed beyond belief, but budget is just as big of a problem as the backwards system we use.

    Budgets based on test scores is insane. It’s a “cutting your losses” philosophy. Those kids are underperforming, so let’s make it harder for them. And beyond the kids, lets make it harder for the teachers who spent the same amount that it would take to be a lawyer to get paid like crap and constantly have to dig into their own already underpaid pockets to try to fill the gaps that the pathetic excuse for a budget has created in the first place.

    On a less pissed off note, check out the other Ted talk, raising our kids to be entrepreneurs. Good stuff!

    • @MSchechter My boy wants his own business. He asked for a laptop and a cell phone for his 9th birthday next month. He says when he grows up he will be the General Manager of the New York Yankees.

      In his Enrichment program at school, they are learning to make a new product, and come up with an ad campaign for it as well. Not bad for a public school here in Bergen County NJ

      • @NancyD68@MSchechter Sounds like some kid, Nancy 🙂 Some aspirations for a soon to be nine-year-old.

      • MSchechter

        @NancyD68 I hear you, and that is awesome (seriously), but a lot of schools tell a very different story. My wife’s school doesn’t have enough money to buy textbooks or even the same books for the class to read. Plus the kids are on all different grade levels and their families, none the less the kids themselves own computers.

        I’m not being sarcastic when I say that the principal actually slept on the street in front of the school for a few weeks trying to try to win funds from Kohls Cares (which all went to Yeshivas with massive budgets btw).

        My wife is just struggling to get these kids anywhere near reading level (they are 8th graders who are probably around where your son is as far as reading goes).

        • @MSchechter That is such a shame. What are those kids going to do once school is over? The school system here is pretty good which is why I am bending over backwards to remain here.

        • @MSchechter@NancyD68 It was a sad day to me to learn that ANY child here in the US has gone without books that they need while politicians are raising millions for their campaigns to be re-elected. Shame on them!

        • @MSchechter@NancyD68 Nancy, that was not directed at you. I am so happy that your district knows what matters.

        • @NancyD68@MSchechter That’s the only reason we stay where we are. We do have a great school district. If we lived in some of the surrounding areas we’d have to go the private school route.

        • @AllieRambles@MSchechter@NancyD68 It’s a rigged system, really.

    • @MSchechter Michael, Thanks. Yes, of course I saved the budget concern for last. Well, your wife is doing a great thing, but you knew that. I can only imagine the conversations you two must have about this. What do we fix first? Budget or screwed up system? Schools need money and as a taxpaying citizen I’d like to really know what percentage of my money goes where.

      Budgets based on test scores is beyond insane. You’re so right, this formula is a slap to the teachers and the kids. Teachers already have it tough enough, but the constraints of the system and the lack of pay for the hours they put in, it’s enough to make someone snap.

      “Let’s raise kids to be entrepreneurs” is bookmarked and will definitely check that out. Thanks again.

  • Craig you just brought up what keeps me up at night: my daughter’s education.

    It’s funny because I had conversation with Seth about this and how he unschools his kids. Everyday after they finish school, he makes sure he spends time with them until they go to bed.

    No TV, no video games.

    Schools are the worst solution ever for learning anything. Standardized testing is a failure for tomorrow’s needs.

    One reason I pivoted my business model is because I want to be able to spend more time with my daughter.

    The only years which really matter are the ones up to third grade, after that it’s just an expensive an useless babysitter system.

    You should this report

    • @John Falchetto

      Hi John,

      There’s probably going to be a lot more unschooling going on too. I’ll admit, my kids can play certain video games, but only for a limited period of time. We always tried to instill a love of reading in our kids. Read. Read. Read. And that paid off. They love to read, and the creative writing isn’t that bad either.

      We really need to do away with standardized testing as it is setup now. There’s nothing wrong with standards of course, but the way it’s set up is a big failure for tomorrow’s needs, you’re right there.

      That’s great you were able to change your business model to stay home. Spending time with your kids is the most important thing of course.

      Thanks for the report, just downloaded the pdf!

  • lesmckeown
    • @lesmckeown Thanks for this! Plenty of material to go through. Beautiful site too.

  • lizabutcher

    @ginidietrich @craigmcbreen What a thought provoking article, even for Canadians. #education

  • CraigMcBreen

    @CareersOutThere Thanks for the RT @ginidietrich

  • CraigMcBreen

    @JohnFalchetto Thanks for sending this out! Are Schools Killing Creativity by @CraigMcBreen

  • Unfortunately, our public school systems are moving to the direction of MORE uniformity; everyone learns the same way. Hell, even teachers are being forced to TEACH in the same manner.

    I am a mom and sub teacher in CA and all I have seen in the last 5 years is that every teacher MUST teach in the same way as the next teacher and the next. Teachers are told THEY must squash how they like to teach for this new uniform method, there is no teaching or learning outside the box. I understand every student must be taught at the same pace and that is what our system is doing. That is fine. But nothing is left for creativity for students or teachers.

    Just 5 years ago out district adopted a new curriculum. My son’s 3rd grade teacher had to throw out 10 years of creative teaching that she tailored for the children in her class as she familiarized herself with them. An “artsy” student could no longer learn by drawing. A “scientific” student could no longer build a model to learn about math or science or even grammar. A hands on student could no longer use tangibles. You get the idea, right? A great teacher recognizes the strengths of a student and helps he/she learn in a way that fits that student. No more. It is all by the book, no swaying from the norm.

    Kids sit for hours in front of a screen and books. They get bored and stop paying attention.

    I wish we could foster more creativity and individualizism. There is nothing wrong with children knowing they are special at what they like to do and what they are good at. I guess that would make others feel inferior. And I guess that is why we are moving toward a society of little robots.


    • @AllieRambles My children have been in private school since birth so to speak. Eventually I am going to have to stick them in LAUSD and am concerned about it.

      One of the things that I love about their current school is that the teachers aren’t forced to work solely off of uniform testing.

      • @TheJackB @TheJackB Wait? Is that Los Angeles school district? If so, I have to tell you, my own parents wouldn’t send me through that one 30 years ago. I grew up near Long Beach and the schools around there were scary. I’m sure where you live is WAY better. So I wouldn’t worry too much. You are a devoted father and they will do great!

        • @AllieRambles It is but IMO without parental involvement it doesn’t matter how good the school is.

      • @TheJackB@AllieRambles If we lived in another school district, my kids would probably be in private school too. The main reason we moved here, Shoreline, WA, was the schools.

    • @AllieRambles

      Hi Allie,

      Our public school district, just north of Seattle is a good school district, great really. The quality of education is great and there are some really extraordinary teachers, especially in my son’s elementary school.

      They also have a laptop program at the middle and high schools, ipads are next. The high school also has a culinary arts program with a professional kitchen and the woman who teaches it is outstanding.

      Another great thing about the elementary school is a big focus on writing, plus music, physical education, computers. The kids are also taught presentation skills, early, which is unusual.

      That being said, we live in a nice community, and most of the kids come from stable, two parent households.

      This district also has had very strong support from the community with bonds.

      This is not true is many districts, and the system is failing so many kids. That uniformity you talk about, Allie. I know this is pervasive across the country, but can imagine the headaches in such a huge district as LA or others in CA.

      That’s really a shame about your son’s 3rd grade teacher. That kind of thinking is poison and sucks all the creativity out of the teachers. A society of little robots. That is scary.

      • @Craig McBreen Craig, You are just making me want to move to up to Seattle. You are lucky NorCal is as cold as I want to go, lol. Are you just trying to rub it in?

        It is better than great that your children get these amazing programs! Our schools have awesome teachers that are stuck just teaching basics. No art, music and barely any computers. My parents told me CA was the epitome for great schools years ago when they were kids and now, well, it is the opposite.

        I can say, our school district is good but could be better. It is sad. My kids are lucky, they do extracurricular activities for enrichment but I know that much of that should be in our schools too, for everyone.

        You know what is really horrible? Our property taxes are high and are suppose to go to schools in our area. Where do they really go?

        • @AllieRambles Yes, I would love to track where that property tax money is going. At least in my district I know we get quality schools, but it’s certainly a mix around us.

          Well, if you move to Seattle right now you’ll experience a lot of gray and drizzle. I’ve grown to like it, actually 🙂 Plenty to do around here, that’s for sure.

      • KatieGnau

        @Craig McBreen@AllieRambles The vast majority of parents are like you – happy with the quality of education that their students are receiving. Unfortunately, due to the anti-teacher, anti-school propaganda, many people feel that they’re the exception when they see great things happening in their schools.

        Luckily, wonderful schools like the one you’ve described are in fact the norm, the horrible assembly-line schools are the exception to the rule.

        • @KatieGnau@AllieRambles I can’t speak for other parents, but not certain it would be the vast majority. I don’t think Ken Robinson has anything to do with anti-teacher, anti-school propaganda, that’s for sure. He is pro-teacher and just wants a better system.

          You are correct in that there is a lot of anti-teacher, anti-school propaganda, and I don’t like that at all. This is different. It’s really about a change to the entire system and I think most teachers would agree with this.

          Thanks, Katie.

        • KatieGnau

          @Craig McBreen@AllieRambles I agree that Ken Robinson is pro-teacher. Many of the teachers I work with have listened to his talks and reflect the values he promotes within their classrooms. Change has happened, and is happening in schools.

          Unfortunately, there is a pervasive, incorrect belief that schools are “factories” that are run in the exact same way they were 50 or 100 years ago. And, there’s a big push by non-educators to make sweeping changes and “shut down the assembly line”. This is interpreted by many as a call to eliminate or minimize public schools, in favor of charters, contract schools and the like.

          I respect the right of parents, like Seth Godin, to opt out of the system and un-school their children. However, I don’t agree that this means that public schools are inappropriate for all and need to be obliterated.

          Change is happening within the schools. There is amazing, creative teaching happening all over the country. I agree with you that a PR campaign is needed. But I think it’s needed by teachers, who need to make the public more aware of all of the wonderful things that are happening in schools.

        • @KatieGnau@AllieRambles My kids have been educated in the public school system and that’s the way I would like to keep it, that’s for sure. This is really about improving the public school system, not doing away with it. That’s the last thing I want.

          I also see your point and agree there is a big movement by non-educators in this direction. I don’t agree with them and think this subject is entirely different. I’m not writing about that, but I do agree with Mr. Robinson that the system is deeply flawed and needs to be fixed. Some districts are changing, yes and that is great, but many are not. Good points.

          Thanks, Katie.

        • KatieGnau

          @Craig McBreen@AllieRambles Thanks Craig. Your post comes across as very anti-public school to me, but perhaps this is an issue to which I’m particularly sensitive! Reading your comments here adds clarity to your post and I suspect that, bottom line, we agree on the fundamentals of what needs to happen to help schools improve.

  • SusanGiurleo

    @danielnewmanUV @ginidietrich @angelamaiers Yes. Kid just told school is boring and is now drawing rather than doing rote spelling.

  • Jayagain215

    @danielnewmanUV Are Schools Killing Creativity? Yes they are, Check out @AbingtonKidsArt They are trying to bring it back

  • CraigMcBreen

    @ginidietrich Wow, in the same sentence as Sir Ken 🙂 I can’t believe all these retweets. Welcome to Spin Sucks I guess 🙂

    • ginidietrich

      @CraigMcBreen Welcome to @spinsucks!

  • ToniAntonetti

    Schools are stifling intellectual curiosity with standardization, but, just as bad, parents are scheduling children so much that they don’t have any time to just BE…to explore…to be creative…to imagine. ‘Nuff said.

    • @ToniAntonetti Hi Toni, Some parents might over-schedule kids, but that is really up to them. My youngest son does a few activities outside of school, not many, but just enough I think.

  • One of my favorite speeches I’ve ever heard on this topic of the education system being broke is titled “Valedictorian Speaks Out Against Schooling and you can see it here . . .

    My brother is a brilliant guy. He graduated high school, college and grad school with no less than a 3.5 grade average all while doing close to zero studying. He was so good at knowing what the teachers wanted and knowing just what was gonna be covered on tests that I believe outside of MAYBE a few of his classes, for example, the History of Rock & Roll, he was never wide-eyed, soaking in knowledge for the sake of passion.

    All of his effort was poured into gaming the system and learning just enough so that he could pass tests.

    He got “certified” to teach and I sensed that the only reason he’s moving in that direction is because that’s what his degrees “supposedly” give him the best shot at earning a living in the world. I feel like he dreads the idea of doing that work (never talked to him about it) and that he feels forced into a corner by the sheepskin handed to him by the business guys running the universities. Can’t very well abandon a profession you aren’t passionate about after tens of thousands of dollars has been dumped into your becoming “Qualified” to pursue it, just because you aren’t juiced about it, can you?

    Well, guess what? He did. In this economy his masters degree is working against him. He’s discovered that schools are leaning towards hiring people with no grad school experience because they can pay them less.

    One thing I don’t think schools taught him though was the importance of and how to be a value adding networking beast who builds friendship and alliances that allow you to get the breaks. Schools don’t teach a lot of stuff like this that is so important to be equipped with in the real world.

    • @Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2 Hi Lewis, Not aware of this, but will check it out.

      Interesting story about your brother. I think there are so many people like him that know how the system works and get through like he did … as you said, gaming the system. I like what you said about him, “… he was never wide-eyed, soaking in knowledge for the sake of passion.” I think that describes a huge percentage of kids.

      This story about college is an entirely different matter I think. But, if the school system was setup differently I don’t think there would be so many people entering college just for the sake of entering college. I think people with two year technical degrees are doing much better than the average four-year college graduate right now.

      I do know someone with a masters degree who went into an entirely different line of work. All that education. All that money. Yikes.

      The interpersonal skills you mentioned are very important and they should be taught at a young age. Our public elementary school does this kind of thing. Kids have to prepare presentations, give speeches, and the kids talk afterward. Pretty cool really, but the exception, not the norm.

      Thanks, Lewis

  • ginidietrich

    @CareersOutThere Hi!!

    • CareersOutThere

      @ginidietrich Hey GD!

  • KatieGnau

    This blog post is the product of a PR campaign by education corporations against teachers. The strong anti-teacher, anti-school sentiment that’s running rampant right now is largely the result of a push by corporations to promote alternate types of schools, such as charter and contract schools. Without a doubt, there are problems in our current system. What the author has described exists in some schools – and the unfortunate reality is that it’s most likely to be found in the neediest communities. However, teachers all over the country are using innovative methods to teach students to be passionate about learning. I’ve been an educator for over 10 years and have worked in public and private preschools, elementary schools, universities and an informal education institution (an accredited zoo). Education has changed and is changing. While I love Seth Godin, he is not an educator and does not have a clear understanding of what’s going on in most schools. If you’d like a better understanding of what education actually looks like and what needs to change to improve it even further, I recommend you talk to educators.

    Admittedly, we, educators, need a PR campaign. But please do not be deceived into thinking that your understanding of the current issues is anything less than the PR of non-educators.

    • @KatieGnau

      Your statement is unfair and as unbalanced as the accusation you make. I am not a full time teacher now but there was a time when I taught and I spent decades working with children in positions that are part of the education system.

      Not every school or teacher is bad but there are quite a few who are mailing it in and using techniques that cater to the lowest common denominator. I am not the only one saying this- my friends who are teachers are saying it. My friends who are teachers have told me that they would do whatever they could to avoid certain schools. Many of those are located in middle class neighborhoods.

      There is a big problem and we don’t do any favors by pretending otherwise.

  • skooloflife

    This is a subject that I’m really passionate about considering that I’ve learned more from the skool of life than any other school I’ve been to. Craig, one of the big issues I see with the education system is that it’s a one sized fits all approach helping people reach their potential. “here’s your degree, would like fries with that?” I consider myself a failed byproduct of the education system and always tell people the only thing my two degrees got me are these pieces of paper on the wall at my parents house and a bill that shows up every month.

    That aside, there’s a great movie called Accepted that you might enjoy. The premise is basically that some kid doesn’t get into college so he makes up his own college and the whole thing spins out of control. But one of the interesting things that happens is that he ends up with all this tuition money and ends up appropriating people’s money to whatever they are interested in studying in. I think we need to see an education institution take this kind of initiative. Sure we don’t know what the results are going to be, but they’re not that spectacular now, so why not shake it all up.

    • @skooloflife Hi Srini, Yes, I definitely know about the skool of life. As you know, I’m very fond of your podcast. And as you said, I’ve probably listened to more of them than you 🙂

      “Here’s your degree, would like fries with that?” Ha ha, can I trademark that?:)

      I’m a failed byproduct just like you. As I mentioned to Lewis below, college is a different matter, BUT, if the educational system was setup in a different way, I don’t think there would be quite as many kids entering college just for the sake of entering college, and then getting so many close-to-worthless degrees.

      I’ll have to check out “Accepted.” Man, I now have enough material to keep my busy for a while. Plenty of great suggestions. All for shaking it all up. Thanks!

  • ginidietrich

    @skooloflife Hiiii!

    • skooloflife

      @ginidietrich hey Gini (I think you’ll be really thrilled with our big announcement on Monday )

  • KennethIsDesign

    I just wrote about this.

    From an early age children arent afraid to be wrong. They do want they want and have fun.

    School is educating people not to be wrong. If your not prepared to be wrong you’ll never come up with anything original.

    Creativity is Originality fraternal twin.

  • KennethIsDesign

    I just wrote about this.

    From an early age children arent afraid to be wrong. They do want they want and have fun.

    School is educating people not to be wrong. If your not prepared to be wrong you’ll never come up with anything original.

    Creativity is Originality’s fraternal twin.

  • PaulSegreto

    @JustInTheSouth Great meeting you in Nashville – hope to see you soon!

    • JustInTheSouth

      @PaulSegreto YES! It was great to meet you too! I’m sure our paths will cross again soon!

  • LeslieW.Brazil

    Yes. Since No Child Left Behind has been the standard, creativity has gone out the window for not only the student, but the teacher as well. Teachers are bound by state mandated curriculums – no deviation based on student interest or class personality. All to ensure that every child gets an equal education. Despite the millions of dollars spent, stats show that there’s been so significant gains in closing the “achievement gap”. In fact, that dial hasn’t moved since the late 1970’s. Public education has become another branch of social services.

    • KatieGnau

      @LeslieW.Brazil In Illinois at least, there is no state mandated curriculum. Some school districts mandate a curriculum, but even then there are opportunities for teachers to customize it to the needs of their students – and teachers are encouraged to do so. As a college professor, I am tasked with preparing future educators, and thus have the opportunity to “glimpse” into many different schools in a variety of settings. In most cases, a mandated curriculum simply means that a committee of teachers has made recommendations about how resources should be used efficiently across classrooms and grade levels (i.e. they purchase class sets of materials and textbooks that are used by all teachers at a grade level). Teachers still have the leeway to make the curriculum their own, and most have the training and passion for their work necessary to do so. Differentiation, or making the curriculum appropriate to each individual student, is a skill that teachers learn during undergraduate studies, and are expected to utilize once they are in the classroom. Teachers differentiate based on student interest and class personality, as well as the learning needs of their students.

      • @KatieGnau@LeslieW.Brazil

        Hi Katie,

        Thanks for the detailed comments here. There are definitely exceptions out there and thanks for explaining the situation in Illinois. But there are many states and districts where teachers don’t really have this choice, as Leslie mentioned, with teachers bound by state mandated curriculums.

        You’ve made some great points in your comments and I really appreciate that, I just hope you don’t think this post is anti-teacher, because it’s anything but that.

    • @LeslieW.Brazil Hi Leslie, Agree with you there. Current reform movements, like No Child Left Behind, do emphasize testing over learning … leaving out the creativity and passion of teachers.

      There are plenty of exceptions of course, as Katie has mentioned below, and as I have regarding our great public school district.

  • Dan_Gross

    @JustInTheSouth Yup. @ oldest’s Mid-school orientation the principal bragged about everything they’ve done that “boost std. test scores.”

  • Dan_Gross

    @JustInTheSouth NOTHING about “we do this because it helps them learn better/more.” Higher standardized scores is priority #1 #NCLBFail

  • Education is always quite the hot button issue Craig, nice to see you tackle it here. I’ve got F&F in education, smart teachers who struggle to make a difference within the constraints of the system. And I see how hard it is, how political and challenging it is to change what clearly is a broken system, esp. as I read stories of school districts spending $$ per child, but closer looks show how little of that really trickles down to the students.

    I also look at the parents, happy to read comments from those like @John Falchetto who don’t let their kids education stop with school. I ended up w/ a pretty solid education coming from public school systems in MS and LA. As a non-parent I still observe and shake my head at ‘these kids today’ and how much things have been dumbed down, homogenized, filtered. All for the sake of ‘normal’ and ‘equal.’ Then it’s hearing complaints of too much work, too hard and again.. shake my head when I think back to the jobs, extra activities, chores I had back in school. IDK how or where things shifted, but agree the system doesn’t always reward creativity. And FWIW that TED talk is one of my faves.

    • @3HatsComm

      Hi Davina,

      Good to see you back in town!

      This is indeed a hot button issue. I do think a lot of super talented teachers leave because of the constraints. Many stay and try to make a difference, but it’s an up hill battle in most cases.

      I wrote this because I felt, way back when, that I didn’t fit into this complex and things haven’t changed much since I was a kid. There are many exceptions of course, but. Things have been homogenized and filtered, and we need to focus more on creativity, in all areas.

      Yes, that is not only my favorite TED talk, but one of my favorite speeches, period.


  • Ok, I’m a little odd………..oh wait I’m sure you were talking about another Billy………….

    I completely agree; I barely made it through high school after my parents divorced and I was left to figure it out on my own. When I happened to be in school there was some serious daydreaming going on. The traditional model is a snooze fest and most definitely one size does not fit all.

    Fortunately, the Army gave me the opportunity to figure it out and I was able to complete a 4-yr degree the traditional way; but I truly feel working with a model that engages and excites kids to learn is the way to go. Changes need to be made to the traditional model; we are not preparing our kids for the ‘real’ world.

    Sorry for the late drop-by; I had a day and a half of Chamber orientation, once again off the grid. Good to see you at Lisa and Gini’s and great job on the post…………..

    • @bdorman264

      Hi Bill,

      Ha ha, that’s a good one, Bill, I mean Billy 😉

      I drifted through school daydreaming, but somehow made it, bored to tears. Didn’t realize you were left to figure it out on your own, but sounds like the Army straightened you out, an entirely different type of four-year degree.

      Maybe one day, we’ll have that engaging and exciting model that truly prepares kids for the real world.

      Thanks for stopping by, my friend. Appreciate the comments. Day and a half of Chamber orientation sounds like fun 😉 I might be emceeing a chamber event here, which will be kind of cool.

      Thanks! Lisa and Gini are great hosts.

  • CraigMcBreen

    @3HatsComm Thanks, Davina, Are Schools Killing Creativity? via @ginidietrich

  • CraigMcBreen

    @bdorman264 Indeed! Thanks, Bill. @ginidietrich

  • DustBunnyMafia

    I agree completely with this. Good post.

  • CraigMcBreen

    @zheller Thanks!

  • Whew what a post – I can see your passion for the topic Craig. And I agree, education must change. But parents and the community must change as well.

    The reason why education isn’t working is that it is stuffed to the brim with stuff – not just the fundamentals. There is very little time to teach creativity and critical thinking when I also need to teach cyber safety, ethics, stranger danger, and resilience. You see the community and the governements see a topic that children need to know and assume that a teacher should teach it.

    Take that out and then teachers will have time to dig deep and stretch students


    • @Ainslie


      Thank you for the comments. Very good points you’ve made here. “stuffed to the brim with stuff,” indeed! I just think that so many kids are pushed through the system and don’t get anything out of it. If your personality, traits, skills don’t line up with the system, you either just get by, don’t, or learn how to game the system. And the “stuff” you’ve mentioned just makes it that much harder on the teachers.

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  • MatthewLiberty

    Seth Godin talks abt our “factory mentality”, good stuff RT @danperezfilms R Schools Killing Creativity? @ginidietrich

  • CraigMcBreen

    @dafollowthrough Thanks!

  • CraigMcBreen

    @iud24 Thanks.

    • iud24

      @CraigMcBreen you speak to known problems, I also affirm to that in my #community and my #digital #inhabitat.

  • This rocks @Craig McBreen really. This is everything I totally believe! I just love love love this.

    I totally sucked at school – I passed my exams and got good grades but was ALWAYS in detention.

    I’m so inspired by this post … amazing!

    • @Ameena Falchetto

      Hi Ameena,

      Thanks! Appreciate the kind words. I sucked at school too. I was not in detention as much as you 😉 but bored out of my mind. I’m glad you were inspired. The fact that this message resonates with so many shows you how much this change is needed. It also amazes me how many are aware of Ken Robinson and his message. Thanks!

  • CraigMcBreen

    @AmeenaFalchetto Thanks, again! @ginidietrich

  • CraigMcBreen

    @JohnFalchetto Thanks to the Falchetto’s for spreading the word 🙂 @ginidietrich

    • JohnFalchetto

      @craigmcbreen Awesome post Buddy and a very important subject.

  • CraigMcBreen

    Thanks @Marcelj !

  • yokkaichi1

    Schools are killing more than children’s creativity. An estimated 5 million children on on psychotropic drugs, prescribed and administered by the schools, some which have been linked to murder and suicide among some users. Rather than ask if schools need to change, I question whether anything about them can be redeemed. To be able to salvage something from the present school system would help with a smooth successful transition, but I have yet to find a feature from the present system that I want for my children.

    • @yokkaichi1 The widespread medication of children is certainly not the answer, yet so many so many are quick to medicate. Young minds dulled when they should be exploring and learning.

  • This is a topic I am very passionate about because personally I just don’t test well. But testing is everything in schools unfortunately. The fact that we are cutting art programs and classes that encourage creativity is also very disheartening. Our education system really needs a complete makeover and I think you made some great points. Thanks for writing this!

    • @rachaelseda Hi Rachael, Well, I can relate 😉 Testing is everything, unfortunately, and it does seem like art programs are often the very first to go when funding is tight. I’m glad you liked the post, Rachael, thanks for commenting.

  • CraigMcBreen

    @IAmAdamGreen Thanks, Adam!

    • IAmAdamGreen

      @CraigMcBreen You bet. I’ve been quite a fan of that Ken Robinson video for some time now.

  • DedeCraig

    @MichaelBesson Oh lordy just read this as “Are school killings creativity” – shoo *wipes brow*

    • MichaelBesson

      @DedeCraig Nicely said! How are you today?

      • DedeCraig

        @MichaelBesson I’m blissed out always 😉 How are you ?

  • DedeCraig

    As they say – teachers should stop teaching subjects – and start teaching children…

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