Classroom Freedom is a Catalyst for Creativity

Aug 27, 2018Education, Philosophy, Random0 comments

Last week I shared some views on the benefits of creativity within the education process. To facilitate creativity there needs to be increased freedom along the way.

Creators learn what they want to learn in order to have the tools that their originality andgenius demand. We do not know how much creation is killed in the classroom with itsemphasis on learning.

(Neill, 300)

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 as the company?s CEO he wanted to bring back an approach to Apple that was an ?us against the world? ideal. He worked to launch the Crazy Ones advertising campaign. The message of the ads was ?Here?s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes? the ones who see things differently ? they?re not fond of rules? You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can?t do is ignore them because they change things? they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.? (Apple, 1997) It was not just a fancy campaign, but it was the idea that ran throughout the company. Jobs wanted to instill a culture of creativity by allowing the company to challenge the status quo. He set lofty goals and allowed his team to create varied ways to reach those goals.?

We have a duty to create an environment where students are free to create and perform their creative abilities. In his book, Out of Our Minds, author Ken Robinson expresses that, ?Facilitating creative development is a sophisticated process that must find a balance between learning skills and stimulating the imagination to explore new ideas.? (Robinson, 161) There is a duty of every educator in helping to facilitate the opportunity for the student to develop their creativity.

We need not leave children completely to their own devices. Teresa Amabile relates the importance of having set goals without a set path to get there. ?When it comes to granting freedom, the key to creativity is giving people autonomy concerning the means?that is, concerning process?but not necessarily the ends. People will be more creative, in other words, if you give them the freedom to decide how to climb a particular mountain. You needn?t let them choose which mountain to climb. In fact, clearly specified strategic goals often enhance people?s creativity? Creativity thrives when managers let people decide how to climb a mountain; they needn?t, however, let employees choose which one.? (Amabile) Often when a new paradigm has occurred, or a revelatory discovery has come about, it is because someone has gone away from the normalcy of the life around them. They sought to dig a little deeper and discover through doing things differently than they had always been done they broke out of the norm and discovered facts that were once beyond our previous grasp. These can be looked at in such examples as Benjamin Franklin?s harnessing of electricity, Albert Einstein?s theory of relativity that lead to Lise Meitner?s?splitting of the atom, the many who challenged the theories of storing memory in a machine that lead to the computer, and even Leonardo da Vinci?s insatiable attempts to square the circle.?

Children need to question and solve beyond the analytical. Paulo Freire shares in Pedagogy of Freedom that, ?Ingenuous curiosity, from which there results, without doubt, a certain kind of knowledge…is what characterizes ?common sense? knowing.? (Freire, 35) Here, learners are acquiring real-world experiences through acting on this creative curiosity. To further define this curiosity I quote Freire in stating that, ?Curiosity as restless questioning, as movement toward the revelation of something hidden, as a question verbalized or not, as search for clarity, as a moment of attention, suggestion, and vigilance, constitutes an integral part of the phenomenon of being alive. There could be no creativity without the curiosity that moves us and sets us patiently impatient before a world that we did not make, to add to it something of our own making.? (Freire, 37) Giving the opportunity for this learning to occur false squarely on the shoulders of educators, in the home, in the school, and throughout society.?

When a child is born it needs most everything done for it, this includes being fed, cuddled, carried from place to place, and diapers changed. They are not independent creatures. As they grow we encourage curiosity. We want to see a child learn to talk, to walk, to interact, to engage. We want them to be vocal and let us know what is going on. They have graduated from a purely dependent state to an individual that is gaining its own experiences and set of virtues and actions. However, when a child gets to a certain age we feel that they are ready to be ?educated?. We then contain these children into rooms with like-minded individuals of the same age to be lead by one that is much more senior in age. Here, they are to take orders, fall in line, keep themselves quiet, and comply to not be deemed as a troubled student.

As we look at the structure of the Summerhill school that was established and run by A.S. Neill we see an educational system that was democratically run as much by the students as it was the instructors. In his book titled Summerhill Neill shares his philosophy that ?Free children are not easily influenced; the absence of fear accounts for this phenomenon. Indeed, the absence of fear is the finest thing that can happen to a child.? (Neill, 297) Here, learning was done through the full desire of the pupil. In attending the school they learned to love learning to the extent that it was considered punishment when they were kept from attending lessons. The school allows students to truly learn to their strengths. Neill shares with us the experience of a student named Jack. Jack was not one for examinations and did poorly on his university exams, but excelled in other areas and became a successful engineer. ?My view is that a child is innately wise and realistic. If left to himself without adult suggestion of any kind, he will develop as far as he is capable of developing.? (Neill, 296) Not every human is the same. Within each of us lies different interests, skills, and abilities. To measure everyone against a standardized stick can hamper the progress and success of many and give way to the arising of a select few.

Obviously, the phenomena of individuals that excel beyond their schooling, and often in spite of their schooling, is not new. We have a plethora of examples of individuals that were either not willing to play the academic games or just did poorly at taking tests that they were not able to earn high degrees but when on to live very successful lives. These tend to be the individuals that create and do a wondrous marvel of great things for the world.??

I would be remiss to not grasp the philosophy that there must be education. We cannot bring up our children without any form of educative practice and learning. We would then raise a society of illiterate dreamers. Education and the benefits associated with it is a blessing to modern society. My argument is that we have made the education process in this country too rigorous and structured. We have removed play and exploration from a once dreamy child to throw them into a world of structured rules and ideals that is meant to churn out competent workers that no longer think for themselves.?I buy into Neill?s view that, ?Learning should come after play. And learning should not be deliberately seasoned with play to make it palatable.” (Neill, 300) There needs to be an opportunity for the mind to run free and be creative.?

We are taking five and six-year-olds from their imaginative and creative state and tossing them into a world where they are compelled to do all things. They are told what to read, what to learn, where to sit, when to talk, and whether they can use the bathroom or not. They are not allowed to get up and move about the classroom when they feel jittery. Their brains are then transformed from a creative state of exploration and imagination to one that is no longer allowed to take risks or act for itself. How then are we to expect this new generation to solve the great problems that face them ahead?

To be continued…


Neill, A.S. Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing. USA: Hart Publishing Company, 1960 (page numbers are from Classic and Contemporary Readings in the Philosophy of Education

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of Freedom. Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 1998

Robinson, Ken. Out of Our Minds; Learning to be Creative. United Kingdom: Capstone Publishing, 2001)

Amabile, Teresa. How to Kill Creativity, Harvard Business Review September-October 1998. https://hbr.org/1998/09/how-to-kill-creativity?

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