Overcome the bias against creativity

My husband sent an email to me this morning with a link to Noa Kagayama’s post Do We Have a Hidden Bias Against Creative People. My husband wrote: “This one was really good.  I don’t know if my son will be a happy productive adult, but I do think you are helping him have a chance. I think public school would slowly kill him.”

My first thought was that I’m so lucky I have a husband who is supporting me in unschooling. It’s a big step for him. He was brought up by a fifth or sixth generation farmer. He spent his childhood learning the rules of the farm. And he went to school in a rural district where the classes were so easy for him that he didn’t do homework until he got to college. What he learned in school was to sit down, be quiet, and ignore the urge to do anything that might be interesting to him.

Often he’ll watch our kids bending rules in the barn, making semi-edible meals, launching questionable grenades, and he’ll say, “I would have been so happy doing this instead of school.”

But still, he was skeptical. When we started unschooling it was hard for him. He went along with it in the same way he went along with the red paint in our bathroom. (Did you know that red paint is never waterproof? That’s why you never see red bathrooms.)

Noa’s post is jarring. Researchers listed traits most common in highly creative children:

  • Makes up the rules as he/she goes along
  • Impulsive
  • Nonconformist
  • Emotional
  • Takes chances
  • Tends not to know own limitations and tries to do what others think is impossible

And characteristics least typical of highly creative children:

  • Tolerant
  • Reliable
  • Practical
  • Logical
  • Understanding
  • Good-natured
  • Sincere
  • Dependable

Teachers were asked to rate their favorite student based on the characteristics. Unsurprisingly teachers said their favorite students were those who had characteristics least descriptive of creative children. And the teachers said their least favorite students had profiles which were more consistent with characteristics typical of creative children. Noa summarizes succinctly: “In other words, the teachers favored the students who exhibited fewer creative traits.”

Of course this is no surprise. The ratio of students to teachers is skewed to favor the kids. School is like a prison in that it’s always on the edge of insurrection because of the competing needs of the few in charge and the masses being managed. The best way to keep the kids orderly is to make them follow rules. And the best way to get kids invested in rules is to make them care what the teacher thinks and make them care about being part of the group.

This is why Jennifer Senior shows that by high school, school becomes a prison of conformity. And this is also why the most creative people — athletes, actors, musicians — leave high school in order to focus on what they care about.

Grammar school is a training ground to be a total conformist in high school.

What’s the problem with that? It doesn’t get you what you need as an adult. Thomas Friedman, writing in the New York Times, says Google doesn’t care about your ability to conform. They care about your creativity. And IBM wants leaders but they define leaders as highly creative. And one of the top 15 traits that people look for on Monster job listings is “creative problem solving”.

The quarterlife crisis that has dominated lives of twenty somethings in the Information Age is actually the result of the gap between what we teach in school about creativity (it’s bad) and what the workplace thinks about creativity (it’s good). The jarring shift in expectations is difficult for everyone who went through our school system. They have to learn all new rules, they have to start valuing different parts of themselves, because everything they’ve been taught about creativity is wrong.

On days when I am worried that unschooling is crazy and high risk, I can’t always depend on my husband to bolster my confidence, because sometimes he wavers as well. But I can look at what we know about schools and creativity and I can assure myself that there is no way unschooling can be any worse for preparing kids for adult life. And it might even be better.

38 replies
  1. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    My youngest son loves to create and edit video. He’s been doing it off and on since he was 5, when he took still photos of his Legos and stitched them together into a 5-second stop-motion video. Three years ago he made a movie starring stuffed animals that had a semblance of plot. Today he’s learning Flash and has a Wacom tablet.

    In school, he got accepted into the Mass Media program, where they teach television production. He loves the work in class where they produce a newscast, but he’s getting a D+ in the class because, thanks to ADHD and Asperger’s, he just can’t handle the assignments, all of which are long term and have nothing to do with the actual work of making video. Things like critiquing articles about making video, or watching a newscast and commenting on the quality of the presentation, stuff he doesn’t care about.

    It’s making him think seriously of dropping out of the program.

    It kills me, because if he were to do this for a living he’d never have to write an article critique.

    If I weren’t divorced from his mother, who’s custodial, I’d love to unschool him because I think it would be a perfect fit for him. This is the path he has drawn, like it or not.

    But it kills me to see his lifelong love for something damaged by The Official Path to Doing It.

    • Teri
      Teri says:

      Your post really touched me Jim. As the step-mom of a teen daughter in public schools I fully understand what you are experiencing. As the non-custodial parent all you can do is continue to be encouraging. You can keep that spark alive when he is with you. If he’s still young, but old enough to have a logical talk with you – encourage him to do well enough to pass but not worry about getting that A. Encourage him to keep following his passion. Many (most?) of us will have to make compromises in life, but maybe you can influence him to keep his passion while compromising the bare minimum. Good luck!

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth says:

      Jim, consider getting to know professional videographers/people involved in the industry. Actual work/internship experience will be infinitely more valuable for your son than a video class.

    • Amy
      Amy says:

      My husband is a video producer/production company owner. When they’re hiring crew and staff they really only care about what’s on your demo reel and how easy you would be to work with. And the more skills you have the better – production companies want people that can do it all – edit, shoot, do graphics, etc. Motion graphics is HUGE right now, huge as in there is a big need for skilled people who can do it well and a small pool to draw from. Tell your son to teach himself motion graphics in his free time and lots of doors will be open to him no matter what programs he did in school or what grades he got.

  2. Sarah @ Little Bus on the Prairie
    Sarah @ Little Bus on the Prairie says:

    Companies might favor creativity and even say that it’s what they’re looking for, but I doubt that they want creativity and all the characteristics that come along with it that you list here, in lieu of those like reliability and tolerance.

    I do agree that schools kill creative impulses in kids, most definitely, but I don’t think everything should be skewed in the other direction either.

    • Carrie
      Carrie says:

      Agreed! It’s mostly lip service from my experience. Most companies are not set up to accommodate or take advantage of creative people’s talents, let alone help them grow in those areas. What sometimes happens is that they hire a creative person and then throw them into the same system they’ve been using for everyone else and say “OK – be creative! But follow these rules.” It’s really sink or swim, unfortunately.

  3. Liz Ness
    Liz Ness says:

    Here’s the thing, where there’s smoke there’s fire.

    For example, a young friend of mine was sent to the principal’s office a couple of years back (when she was in second grade — she’s now in fifth, I believe) because she’d initiated a game where all of the kids took on different roles during recess (sort of like a dramatic play where she was both the director and an actor). The school was so worried about intolerance that the only form of play allowed was limited a prescribed use of school equipment (e.g., you could climb the monkey-bars, enjoy the slide, play hop-scotch, etc.). My little friend was breaking the rules and it was the sort of offense that meant a visit for her and her parents to the principal’s office. During this meeting, the principal clarified school policy by writing a list of acceptable and non-acceptable play. On the non-acceptable side, the principal included the word “imagination.”

    This is why when someone writes an article that indicates a trend, I take these articles seriously. The reported trend–or “smoke”–asserting that creativity is under threat, is really indicative of a much more dangerous fire. And personally, I care very much about protecting and nourishing creativity and imagination. It’s much easier to coach in reliability later on than it is to undo stifled imagination and creativity.

  4. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    I would argue that there is just as much bias against creativity in the workplace as there is in school.

    Companies might say they want and need creative people, but really they don’t. School is the same way. Creativity is messy, unpredictable, risky, and impulsive, and therefore completely incompatible with most corporate cultures. There are exceptions, but most companies are not like google….most companies are like high school.

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth says:

      I agree. This article lays it out well: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/12/creativity_is_rejected_teachers_and_bosses_don_t_value_out_of_the_box_thinking.html

      Few creative personalities naturally thrive inside the structure of school and corporate world. However there are some variants of each (arts schools or unconventional corporations) where creatives can find a role, and our idiosyncrasies are tolerated, even encouraged. However they’re pretty rare.

      After years of having convinced myself I wasn’t suited for any sort of institutional structure, I’ve found a role: as an artist-in-residence at an international school. I design my own projects, work independently, and am a catalyst for creativity in a larger community. It’s loads of fun! But a very small niche.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        What you do sounds so awesome! Artist-in Residence… that sounds really interesting.

    • Jayson
      Jayson says:

      Companies do the same thing as schools were described doing in the article. They change the definition of creativity to be something they can also manage. Having conformists that are easy to understand in a classroom or in a corporate team makes the job of the person managing the group easier. Thus, they migrate to the path of least resistance.

  5. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    I’m sure it’s a shock for kids to find out later in life that they’ve been lied to by schools; telling them they are creative when they are really not the true creative types. The truly creative kids I went to school with did not conform, and looked miserable ALL the time; these were not teacher’s pets.

    I think your husband is awesome with how supportive he is. Very cool.

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth says:

      People who question authority can be obnoxious, sure (doesn’t mean they always are). But they see outside the conventional ways of doing things, are outliers, and are more likely to be successful in fields where novelty is rewarded.

      When I taught art, the most diligent students were girls. No question. They had the focus to draw well. A few with artists in the family had sophisticated taste and techniques which brought their work to a high standard. But many of the most troubled boys wielded their pencils like knives to the paper, and had personalities to match. Their line work was amazing, and their ideas and visions were totally unique. When this energy is corralled into art over the long-term, you can get some amazing results.

      Or, at least, some damned good therapy for the price of graphite and sketchbooks.

  6. Gretchen
    Gretchen says:

    As an adult who is creative and who was always labeled as “so creative” as a child…majored in art, with a concentration in graphic design…and who has always for the most part been a responsible, normally-socialized and well-behaved person, I guess I kind of resent this implication that “creative” people are, basically, a$$holes who can’t play well with others and follow rules. Breaking rules in a company and society is not the same as breaking artistic or conceptual rules. I wonder if parents of ill-behaved kids who they just don’t have there wherewithal to discipline a bit like to think their kids are “creative”? (Not that I am a huge disclipinarian, but I do get that sense…)

    • Judy Sarden
      Judy Sarden says:

      Its amazing how people can read the same post and take away something totally different. I didn’t get “creative people are a**holes” from the post at all. Perhaps because I am married to a creative person (architect) and have at least one child who fits the creative personality. And I don’t think they are a**holes. In fact, I, who fit the non-creative characteristics, often wish that I had some of their creativity. I struggle with supporting my kids’ creativity but I do try. I WANT them to be creative. They will probably not follow in my career footsteps (corporate law) but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. And I don’ think the premise of the post was that being creative is a bad thing. I read it just the opposite.

      • Gretchen
        Gretchen says:

        I guess…I do not think being impulsive, emotional and making up your own rules as you go along are great qualities, personally…it’s fine if people are this way, but I think these are character traits that should be honed/tempered. Anyway, so much for my pledge not to comment. Must. stop. now.

      • Commenter
        Commenter says:

        I got “from the teacher’s perspective, which is that of crowd control rather than individuation, creative people are a**holes.”

        When you’re dealing with any large group of people, be they students or clients or customers, there’s an 80/20 rule: 20 percent of them give you 80 percent of your problems. Creative people are in that 20 percent for teachers.

        Most teachers don’t have the luxury (or is it fortitude) to still recognize the individuality of all of their students in the middle of the students flooding down up on them. A year is short, and by the time the teacher figures out they weren’t doing the assignments like the other 30 kids because of some admirable other priority or conviction, they’re on to another teacher.

        I am creative, a writer since I was small. I was also probably considered to be an a**hole by most of the teachers who had me (the feeling was mutual), because this yer:

        Makes up the rules as he/she goes along
        Takes chances
        Tends not to know own limitations and tries to do what others think is impossible

        Is me in a big way. I was so deep in the 20% that I had teachers who just threw in the towel and let me do whatever I wanted as long as I didn’t give them hell. Somehow, I managed to do an awful lot of things others told me were impossible, and making up my own rules as I went along was key to my success.

        My kids are definitely of this mindset as well (though my son is much more sweet-tempered than I am), and avoiding the suffering that inevitably comes from the conflict of the creative mindset with the rigidity of a crowded school (see, Gretch, a modifier!) seems like a great gift this parent can give his children. My son spends more hours in the week occupied by art and music than he does with schoolish concerns, and we both like it that way.

    • Kelsey Langley
      Kelsey Langley says:

      It’s different, Gretchen. My daughter is creative and we are pretty strict, but do run into the “can I try it this way way” issue. Sometimes instead of doing something the exact way I say it (which admittedly, I’d prefer) she wants to do the same task in a way that makes sense to her, or in a new way that she wonders if/how it will work. This isn’t easy for a teacher with 25 kids who all may have their own way of doing something. The kid who wants to do it a little differently then gets in trouble for not following instructions, not listening, disobeying. We’ve gone round and round with it and disciplined til we were blue in the face… the bottom line became obvious- she thinks of this task differently than I do and that has to be ok. She’s creative and she’ll do what she’s told, but she might not do it the exact way I was thinking. Most scenarios this is ok if we loosen our grip a little. One of the many ways my 8 year old has taught me to think of things differently.

  7. Anna
    Anna says:

    In school- being creative is grouped next to being good in art, drama, etc… But lots of people can be talented in those areas- and not be creative- because true creativity is usually finding new and novel ways of doing something. I don’t think that type of creative can be taught that well, but it can be squashed. I don’t care if my kids are creative- but I want them to be comfortable creating things- art, food , clothing , games,- I want them to be doers and creators, and not only consumers.

    • Carrie
      Carrie says:

      Agreed. This is why it’s hard to make a list of characteristics that really describe what creativity is. I’m creative, but I can also be analytical and think things through. In fact, it’s a good combination when analysis informs the creative process.

  8. karelys
    karelys says:

    I am amazed by how grown up Zehavi looks!

    I wonder how much of this traits are due to the lack of understanding of how to nourish a creative type. And how antagonistic school environment is.

    I wonder if it’s possible to have a very creative person that is tolerant and reliable (and all of the other things) because that other person has learned to respect and appreciate how to be in the same page as others. I think kids act out when they are feeling suffocated so it’s possible that all these negative traits are the result of the toxic environment for creatives.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      I was going to say the same thing about Z but you said it first. He is growing up! I’m used to seeing his little kid photos :)

  9. MBL
    MBL says:

    The only thing that surprised me in the Kagayama article was that the teachers’ ideas of a creative student was so off the mark. I know it was a small study, but I had always assumed that they discouraged creativity as a classroom management necessity.

    I absolutely agree with the broad stroke lists above and think that the “less desirable” qualities are vital for truly creative output. It is a ranking. It doesn’t say or mean that one is devoid of the ones that are least typical, just that the others traits rank higher. Someone can be intolerant of status quo ideas without being intolerant of people. Nothing new can be created if all rules (both overt and tacit) are followed.

    I think we only revere truly creative and innovative people AFTER they are successful. Up until that point, people just want them reigned in.

    The primary reason I pulled my daughter from school was to maintain her creativity. Her art teacher was wonderful, but the projects in class were formulaic and deviation was merely tolerated. The pressure for conformity is also reinforced by peers. During a K project on seasons that included coloring green leaves for summer, she colored the trunk purple and the boy beside her informed her that trees aren’t purple. She replied that purple heart woods were and carried on. (I was volunteering that day.) Okay, their bark is actually grey, but I loved her choice. I did not love the fact that her choice was construed as “weird.” But the truth is that anything that is unconventional or different is, in fact, weird. sigh

  10. Tenzing Thinley
    Tenzing Thinley says:

    I am reading this in a town in the Himalayas after selling all to begin travel with my kids and homeschool. We are at the beginning stages of unschooling. This article touches home when I look to the past and realize I was most creative when I was a bit of a non conformist. This journey is proving that creativity comes at all ages. My son is autistic and we watched for years the difficultly with which the school system tried to bring him to conform to the disciplined atmosphere in the classroom. This caused him to loose some of his sense of self. We hope to correct that by giving him his freedom and encouraging self learning and following his interests. His analytical skills are a gift and we hope that he enjoys the freedom to use it in whatever way he finds attractive. My daughter is blossoming with this freedom too. They are showing signs of interest in learning without us having to push them with strict curriculum. It’s early yet but I have confidence that we are doing well for our children.

    • MBL
      MBL says:

      What an amazing gift for your children! I hope you continue to chime in as I’m sure you will have such an interesting perspective on things throughout your journey.

      My daughter has Asperger’s and I knew that keeping her in school was going to break either her or me. Probably both. She still knows exactly who she is and I just feel certain that your son will recover his core now that he has the freedom to do so.

      I wish you the very best!

    • C.A. Lewis-McCarren
      C.A. Lewis-McCarren says:

      Excellent for you & your family! “Painful with no power” is what I felt like when my 10 year old son with a severe language disorder was being reduced to a “problem child” in skrewl. I couldn’t ignore it and I pulled him – despite EVERYONE telling me it would prove to be a BIG mistake. I wasn’t a “newbie” though at home educating though….I have two older children (30 & 25) who I dragged around via the military for 18 years. They turned out just great – better than great!!! They are both creative and thriving adults and I am convinced that no matter how tired and frustrated I get with my two younger children still home, that I will NEVER put them back into any sort of “system”. The family system is best – and the definition of Family System can be defined by as many families that DO IT!!! IMHO. :)

  11. Brynn
    Brynn says:

    I have nothing to add much about the post, though I am very glad you receive messages from Farmer trying to bridge gaps and strengthen your connection. They are the kind of messages that really convey love.

    Mostly I was wanting to comment on how big Zehavi looks! When did he get so grown up? My Goodness. He is such a cutie! Apparently a cutie who has a significant fondness for butter.

  12. Octavia
    Octavia says:

    I’m a middle school teacher. I have almost 150 students. My “special needs” kids are mixed right in with my “gifted” kids, my unlabeled kids, and my kids that are quiet but special in such a way that doesn’t get them a label and so they will be washed over, un-hovered over, uncelebrated.

    And I have to write assessments for all of them, as a class, not as individuals. And I have to manage groups of them 30 at a time. So yes, often the tolerant and reliable kids are favored. If school is like a prison then teachers are not the prison guards walking menacingly down the caged halls. Teachers are the guards in the cafeteria and everyday there is a brawl and we leave work covered in filth and wounds. But it’s exhilarating. And sometimes, we help someone.

    From afar schools look like they are crushing the creativity out of kids. And some classes do do that, for a lot of reasons that aren’t all the fault of the teachers. But some teachers work all weekend to make games out of grammar lessons, to pull their kids into the parking lot to build rockets, to organize schoolwide community activism as a social studies lesson. We need more teachers like this.

    School’s aren’t the problem. Pay teachers more and hire the good ones. The ones with lesson plans that feel like it’s the teachers and not just the kids who are making up rules as they go along.

    Magic can happen in classroom as well as at home.

    • C.A. Lewis-McCarren
      C.A. Lewis-McCarren says:

      Octavia – it’s not about paying people or the system MORE. The whole thing is BROKE!!!! Honestly, I am tired of listening to teachers whine because of too much this or too little that. Teaching isn’t about the money and the current state of education in this country certainly isn’t about teaching…..at least the kind of teaching that we have been convinced is BEST for our children.

      No disrespect towards you, but can you honestly say that you are satisfied with your teaching career when this is what you perceive to be “exhilarating”……”And I have to write assessments for all of them, as a class, not as individuals. And I have to manage groups of them 30 at a time. So yes, often the tolerant and reliable kids are favored. If school is like a prison then teachers are not the prison guards walking menacingly down the caged halls. Teachers are the guards in the cafeteria and everyday there is a brawl and we leave work covered in filth and wounds. But it’s exhilarating. And sometimes, we help someone.”

      If this is your idea of “helping” someone – a child for whom you are tremendously responsible for and then have to divide that responsibility over 30 of them – it is a total shame. It’s shameful because our society is so easily lead down the path of “what is good for us” and what the “norm” is. Look at the readers comments on this site alone – even Penelope’s!!! Most of them are terrified that taking thier child’s education into thier own hands will somehow ruin thier child for life when in actuality the opposite is TRUE! People have been so dumbed-down and now even doing something so right as taking control of thier child’s education and guiding it as they see fit is a majority of the time seen as selfish and self-serving ……not to mention it looks insane to most of the population.

      Our children are an INVESTMENT. If any of us knew beforehand the blood, sweat and tears it takes to raise each one, the world would be a lonely place. Education is soooooo beyond a nice new text book and sharp pencil. It’s beyond the reading levels that are supposed to happen for each age/grade and it is so beyond the walls of the local school district. It is in every moment of a child’s day. It is trips to the grocery store, the Goodwill (because the “norm” for most home educating families is far below that of the more “conventional family – although my husband is a geologist I shop thrift because I LIKE it and my boys tear everything up in a flash!!!). Oh, and my really nice car should be more like a tractor and wagon because of the amount of “stuff” my kids drag home even on a play date at the park. Sticks, rocks, string…..it’s ridiculous!!! They learn anywhere I put them – even in the bathroom because my almost 8 year old son has figured out on his own how to read and now takes in a stack of books for an hour to read when all he has to do is pee. He says he wants “quiet” from his brother. Oy.

      We live in a pretty awesom and big world. Putting kids in 4 walls for 7 hours a day 5 days a week seems like a pretty backwards idea if you ask me – especially when looking at things from a neuro developmental point of view that serious physical activity is vital for brain development and physical vitality. I just have to roll my eyes when “experts” are sitting scratching thier heads wondering what the problem is with these kids today and why so many are NOT thriving to thier own personal potential. It is a total and undeniable tragedy.

      If you really want to help someone, you give them the help they truly need. As a parent myself for almost 31 years now, I can honestly say that I would go to the ends of the earth to help my child develope and grow into the person they were created to be. I’m invested and my return is a well adjusted, kind, passionate and purposeful adult who calls me “mom”. :)

  13. Christopher Chantrill
    Christopher Chantrill says:

    This creativity issue is huge, and full of paradox.

    The driving force in the modern economy is the creative entrepreneur. Yet the people that work for him or her must conform to his vision. The men starting the first factories found that post-pubertal men would not submit to factory discipline. Hence modern schooling.

    Our ruling class, the educated elite, believes in creativity and sneers at the rule-following middle class. Yet it wants to subject everyone to one-size-fits-all government programs from education to health care.

    We talk endlessly about modern freedom, yet we live under the ruthless discipline of the clock. We are free to travel the world, yet inside the airline system we are treated like recruits at boot camp.

    I experience today’s world as a war between the “people of the creative self” and the “people of the responsible self” and the “people of the collective self.”

    Can’t we all just get along?

  14. Erik
    Erik says:

    I think actually employers don’t want creativity for 98% of employees. Most of jobs is doing specific tasks, working in teams, project management, taking responsibility, etc. all those traits are the people who do well in school. The issue employers have is those are not the people who produce the big ideas that help you break new ground, open new markets, etc. so in reality the companies are always trying to find the one or two people with creativity in some much larger group, but you can only hire a few people like that at most in any given team or nothing will get done. So the people with creativity who can function in corporate life (eg not you or me) are extremely highly sought after so you are always looking for then but expecting to only rarely find them. Make sense?

  15. Amber Kane
    Amber Kane says:

    I’ve been teaching high school art in the public school for 7 years and thinking about leaving for 6.

    I’d like to take the conversation farther, and say that not only are creatives leaving school, we’re causing creative thinkers to turn into criminals. As a teacher, I watch kid of kid get detention and ISS ( I don’t assign either), they’re creative kids, that have been told far too many times that creativity is bad. Their creativity energy turns into making bad choices. And our lack of creativity, leads to a lack in understanding, and ability to empathize.

  16. Katherine
    Katherine says:

    I see this with my youngest boy. He’s 5 and such a little ball of energy and imagination. This is the child that doesn’t sit and listen to a story book. He stops me on each page – asks questions about the pictures, makes up new things for the characters to do, etc. He’s always been like this. And he never stops talking. Always moving and thinking and talking. Stopped taking naps at 18 months. It’s exhausting. And if he were in school, his teachers would be asking me to put him on Ritalin. But at home he can just be himself.

    One of the things no one has brought up is that we are medicating the creativity right out of kids. I’m a nurse and I see it all the time. Now, kids are on ADHD meds during the day, then have to be on more meds to sleep at night and then are depressed so they are on Zoloft. Not because the kids are bad, but because they won’t conform to the way schools work.

  17. anonymous
    anonymous says:

    Something just occurred to me. I was one of those wildly creative kids. My first installation art project was created with a litre of molasses and everything white in the cupboard – flour, suger, cereal etc. Unfortunately it was created on the floor of my mothers mobile home kitchen so the critical reception was less than positive. School was also torture for me. Since leaving I have written poems weeping for the lost artist. All the above to say that I understand where you’re coming from. But if I take full ownership I have to admit that I allowed it to happen. I chose to stay in school and with my family even when I wanted to run away. I chose to accept the dumbing down. And I did it because I wanted to belong. The whole systm is predicated on the need to belong. How can we over come that? In all the literature etc. I haven’t seen any discussion on how to be wildly creative and still belong.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I think we each find where we belong by first being our best selves and then learning to find a place to fit. You can find where you belong until you discover your best self. Each of us belongs. We don’t belong when we are trying to be someone we are not.


  18. Nur Costa
    Nur Costa says:

    I am still too young to have kids. I am 21 years old.
    But since I finished Highschool and started University, I realized I wanted my kids’ life to be different.
    I always felt that in school, they were teaching me manners on “how to behave in public” inherently in every class. I was taught to be quiet and to be ashamed of error. That leads to a huge fear of participating on class to avoid not to fail in the correct answer. When, the truth is, there are never correct answers: they’re all good as long as you develop how to implement them.
    This kind of behavior was very bad for my Business studies in the University. The good part for me (the bad part for everyone) is that we all were afraid of failure. So nobody was participating in class and we felt this was normal.
    What kind of education is that?

    I’d rather involve my children to a 2-sided information flow, with freedom to develop the skills they want.

    But I guess I still have 10 years until I have children. If I decide to have any… Because I feel less and less convinced on giving birth to a world like this. Am I too apocalyptic?

    Love your posts, btw.

  19. Byron Clark
    Byron Clark says:

    This is part of what you said: “What’s the problem with that? It doesn’t get you what you need as an adult. Thomas Friedman, writing in the New York Times, says Google doesn’t care about your ability to conform. They care about your creativity. And IBM wants leaders but they define leaders as highly creative. And one of the top 15 traits that people look for on Monster job listings is “creative problem solving”.”

    This is a myth. These companies say they want creativity, yet the majority do not. Google may, but the majority want employees to do what they are supposed to do and no more. Stay in your box is what the majority of companies want and do what your manager tells you to do.

    I’ve sat in operations meetings with a company where they did not want to hear ideas to improve another department from me because a: I was to new to the company, b: it wasn’t my department, and c: I shouldn’t really be talking at these meetings. This is the way corporate America works in the majority of instances. Sure there may be pockets of creativity in some corporations, yet you have to be very well connected inside the company to be in those groups.

    I agree creativity is very important. Most companies are just spouting words to sound good to their shareholders. Creativity means accepting risk. Most companies are risk-averse.

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