Be Creative This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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      Recently, I was given an English assignment that, a few years ago, would have made me ecstatic, but not anymore. We were told to create a piece of writing about whatever we wanted. For days I stared at a blank piece of paper, trying desperately to come up with a topic. Try as I might, I couldn’t think of a single thing I really wanted to write about. This isn’t right, I thought. Ideas should be coming faster than I can write them down. But they weren’t. And why not? Because creativity is not encouraged in American schools.

School is all about test scores and coming up with the “right” answer. Rubrics are handed out to let students know exactly what is expected of their projects. If you stray from the guidelines and take a bit of creative license, you must accept the fact that you will lose precious points. Students have become so accustomed to having definitive answers and writing prompts that they are incapable of original ideas. Instead, they use their brains to store and recall facts that they will need to get a good grade on the next test. When it takes a team of six gifted students more than a week to come up with a creative thesis statement, something is terribly wrong, and the problem isn’t entirely the students. Schools spend valuable class time training pupils to take standardized tests so that they can get more funding when they should be teaching kids to think.

Job interviewers test potential employees on their creativity and ability to solve problems. If asked for the names of ten U.S. presidents, no one would have a problem answering, but ask my generation how they make M&Ms without getting a flat spot on the bottom, and I doubt we could come up with an answer. No offense, but knowing what the outer layer of the sun is called (the corona) isn’t going to come up a lot as a topic of conversation in the real world.

Schools need to focus on teaching students to understand information, not just know the basics. They need to teach kids to express themselves well and with creativity. Maybe you are thinking, well, take a drama or art class if you want to do something creative, but even there you cannot escape the monotony of memorizing techniques and, surprisingly, more facts. Before you can paint your own masterpiece you must learn about the brushes you can use, or techniques for shading a sphere. In drama, you must learn about the stage, and how to a-nnun-ci-ate your words. When the moment finally comes to paint or write your own script, your creative spirit has all but disappeared.

School wasn’t always like this. In first and second grade we had the freedom to write stories about whatever we wanted, to mold clay into fantastic shapes, and to solve riddles with classmates. And we did. We didn’t spend time wondering what to do, it just happened. Unfortunately, just as we learn to spell words like F-U-N-N-Y and C-R-E-A-T-I-V-E, school begins to teach us to soak up the facts and regurgitate information on command.

The whole point of school is to educate people and make them smarter. Snuffing out kids’ creativity doesn’t make us smarter, it makes us robots - robots who can recite what a coordinating conjunction is (a word that links individual words, phrases and independent clauses), but robots nonetheless. Then, after all hints of ingenuity have been repressed to the point of non-existence, we are expected to, once again, start doing everything on our own. That isn’t the way it works. Imagination and creative thinking need to be encouraged on a regular basis.

We need to bring creativity back into America’s schools. We need to teach future generations to think for themselves and develop new ideas. If we don’t, we might just end up stuck in 2007 forever.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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This article has 4 comments. Post your own now!

thebushhippie said...
Oct. 11, 2010 at 10:53 am
You are so right! I always complain to my parents that we aren't allowed to do anything creative in school. Everything is decided for us, and it makes me angry. This is an amazing article and it's spot on. Awesome job, and I totally agree. We need to spread the word! Creativity is important. Why can't adults see that?????
 
Chrissy L. said...
May 2, 2009 at 5:50 pm
I completely understand what you are saying. We learned about immigration in social studies and we were put into groups to perform a play about the immigration experience. My part was the immigrant, so I spent hours writing a script that had soul and personality to it. I develelped my character's personality and tried to make the audience empathetic for her. My script was six pages long, and I was proud of it. But the rubric said the show could only be 15 minutes (and that is with 4 other par... (more »)
 
FieryRedHead said...
Jan. 22, 2009 at 5:40 pm
I think that this article is the best and truest thing I have read about school in a long time. I still have all my creativity in me, but sometimes I do feel like the teachers are holding us back on what we can acomplish if we were just given the chance. I am still in middle school but will be going to high school at the end of the year, so maybe it hasn't happened at my school yet. We get lots of opportunities to express ourselves, but your right, we could have more freedom to express our creat... (more »)
 
shelby_way said...
Oct. 13, 2008 at 10:57 pm
I truly agree. I do see that my school wont let me be who I want to be. I can't be creative with my work and I can't entertain myself. I really enjoyed reading this because its totally true. I'm a freshman in highschool right now, I'm really enjoying all the freedom and such but I would love more creativity.
 
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