Do Schools Kill Creativity?

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Okay so it’s pretty popular to bash the school system on the Internet these days.

Want to be established as an intellectual writer? Just take a few stabs at an institution over 150 years old. I’ve done it. I know the reaction.

But let’s consider a life before organized schooling — where rich people got to read, write, and learn, while poor people lived ignorant lives on a farm forever.

Want to talk about hopelessness? That’s it.

Now then, for the matter of school and creativity:

~~~ PROS ~~~

1. SCHOOL MANDATES ART (for a while)

After a point, you will have no excuse to cut and paste things together for no reason.

I mean, you can do it, but your spouse will probably wonder why the table cloth has been rearranged into a crude likeness of The Three Musketeers.

Although it’s limited, schools do the right thing by requiring art and music.

2. SCHOOL MANDATES PLAY (for a while)

Think of how many games you played as a kid. If you were like me, these weren’t just random games. We made up rules and players and tournaments because randomly jogging about lost its appeal.

As adults, of course, we also know that exercise creates more blood flow and heightens brain activity, but hey, who needs to worry about that when there is 8 hours worth of desk-sitting and email-answering to be done.


Let’s pretend you graduate and get an average job.

There are probably 500 or so people in your company. 400 of them you will never see. 90 of them will actively do nothing. 7 of them will smile and nod. 3 of them will engage with you in thoughtful discussion about whatever task you have going on.

Schools obviously have disengaged students, but at least in the early stages (and the much later stages), the atmosphere is one where multiple groups of people are thinking about the same things at the same time, enabling plenty of opinions and solutions to emerge.

Often, in the “real world,” you’re just looking at about 6 white dudes in a room making decisions for everyone else.

~~~ CONS: ~~~


This is probably the biggest flaw in the modern school system. No matter your background, interests, or dispositions, you must check the exact same boxes as your peers.

Creativity is obviously not encouraged here.


I haven’t found this to be the case much in business or life. There are a million different ways to get rich. There are infinite paths to “success.”

Moreover, no school teaches the “right answer” to fulfillment. Finding a life purpose, a reason to get up day after day after day after day after day certainly takes a little creativity.


Up until I got out of college, I was mostly unaware artists had a chance at a career. I thought writing was a fantasy career.

But here are a few things I’ve done as a writer that brought in real, actual money in my career:

  • Written and formatted product manuals
  • Written technical documentation for hardware
  • Written website content
  • Written eCourse material and dialog
  • Written and sold copies of my own book
  • Written articles for newspapers
  • Written internal bulletins
  • Written scripts for corporate videos
  • Written treatments for animated videos

Art is not a soft skill.


This skill is becoming more outdated by the second.

“Billy, who was our ninth president?”

*billy taps on phone for 6 seconds*

“William Henry Harrison!”

In school, this is cheating.

After school, it’s expected.

Even universities are admittedly in a tough spot with this one. How do you teach kids remembering things is important when anything they could ever want to know is immediately accessible?

Trick question. You don’t.


…which makes sense because the world currently honors the specialist.

The mad scientist, a person who is experiments with many different skills and abilities and ideas, gets lost in the shuffle.

This has likely happened because schools don’t know what to do with multipotentialites. Where do you categorize them? How do you get data from them? What do you test them on? How can you tell whether or not her teacher deserves a raise?

So instead, they push round pegs into square holes the best they can.

(P.S. — It was reported not long ago that 89% of NFL draft choices played more than one sport in high school or college. Maybe specialization isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.)

Before we go, I have to mention the X factor, the one thing that can entirely change the landscape of education:

One teacher.

The power of a teacher, especially now when information is a commodity, can transform an ordinary learning experience into a magic show.

On the flip side, a hurt teacher, a cruel teacher, or a bad teacher creates not only a gap in learning, but in self esteem (possibly the most important ingredient to healthy kids).

So does school destroy creativity? Not necessarily.

But a teacher can.

Written by

An optimist who writes.

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