The Sort of Wildflower That Children Are
I’m a believer in the importance of creativity and honing one’s natural talents, seeing it as a critical part of becoming effective at and finding fulfillment in whatever one does. That creativity can be underdeveloped during education, however, does not mean that it’s appropriate to make it the sole pillar of a schooling strategy, which is what Julia Steiny implies amidst metaphors of flowers and nature:
What with the glories of spring’s awakening the daffodils and scilla, and the stark winter forest suddenly gone, all fuzzy with life quickening on the branches, education had begun to seem a little lifeless. So I indulged myself in a marathon of YouTube lectures on creativity by Sir Ken Robinson. The Queen of England knighted the man for his warrior-like battles against forces that kill imagination, intuition and our innate appetite for solving puzzles. …
… As humans, “we exploited the earth for certain resources and put the whole operation at risk. Now we’re taking bits of children, educating them, but never finding out what they want to be because no one was looking for it.” …
All children will learn when teachers and the public look at them with the same grateful joy we feel when we see new green sprouting out of the winter landscape. Kids are organic. They will bloom and flourish and even ace the silly tests if only we develop nurturing conditions for them.
As a perpetual reminder about priorities in education, this sort of thinking is healthy, but it’s easy to take it too far. The thing about creativity is that it’s kind of shapeless. Just as trees and bushes need pruning and vines do best with lattice and such, children need a framework within which to allow their creativity to flourish. I couldn’t help but think of Steiny as I turned the pages of my Sunday paper and came across this:
A 13-year-old hangs himself in a Johnson County, Texas, barn. An 8-year-old jumps out of a two-story school building in Houston. Nine Massachusetts teenagers face jail time after allegedly harassing a girl so mercilessly that she killed herself. These incidents, all of which took place in one week, reframe the age-old phenomenon of the schoolyard bully.
Students are turning to suicide, experts say, as an escape from taunts that now continue beyond the school day through cyberspace. Such drastic responses, they say, reveal how an action once considered a rite of passage has turned into a public health issue.
I’m not saying that a creative curriculum negates the ability to control bullies, or that all children will be monsters if allowed to grow wild. But every garden has weeds, and even desirable plants can strangle each other if not properly situated and grown.
Metaphors and creativity only take us so far. And at the end of the day, the world doesn’t need three million pop stars, and it can’t function with only two carpenters. Creativity isn’t all, and the right balance is necessary in order to avoid untold misery.