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Our "Modern" Educational System Is Destroying Creativity: 6 Reasons why Schools are bad For Kids

The prison cell of "modern" education
The prison cell of "modern" education | Source

Disclosure: I'm a passionate informal educator and I have a few years of experience as a high school teacher for English as a second language and Physics. I don't want to say education is unneeded, I simply wish it would change for the better. So let me get on with my point.

If we make a simple survey of how many students enjoy studying at school and how many of them use the studied material later in life we would get tragic results that seem OK to us only because we are used to them. Kids hating school should not be the norm and the fact that we accept it as a normal part of life only shows how deeply our educational system's inadequacy has screwed us up. It's high time we faced the facts with open minds, spotted the problems and fixed them (which might mean throwing away the old system and starting anew). Education should be enlightening, exciting, and empowering, and not something that resembles a torture chamber in a dark dungeon. So let's try to spot what's wrong.

The Problems

  1. It's a legacy system
  2. Most of it is a waste of time
  3. The wrong public mindsets are perpetuated by this system
  4. One size never fitted all
  5. The grading system is based on the wrong values
  6. It values dry knowledge higher than applicable skills, progress, personality and creativity

Our educational system hasn't experienced fundamental change since these draper looms were on the bleeding edge of technology.
Our educational system hasn't experienced fundamental change since these draper looms were on the bleeding edge of technology. | Source

1. It's a Legacy System

So let's start by facing a truth that we are all aware of on some level, but usually try no to face - our educational system is archaic. It emerged in the time of the Industrial Revolution and it is designed to cater to that time of history and not current social reality. Education is still trying to grind children down to the size that would fit the needs of the industrial revolution. We can see this in the way we assign importance to different subjects. The most important subject in school is still Maths, followed by languages, sciences, humanities with arts and music at the very bottom. This is the value that was assigned because of the needs of the Industrial Revolution and nobody had the guts to revise the curriculum in such a way that would be more adequate to the modern society which allows creative types equally lucrative career opportunities as engineers. Designers, musicians, artists, dancers and actors can actually do pretty well in the contemporary world.

Additionally, the mode of teaching hasn't changed since the Middle Ages, but we'll go deeper into this in a few seconds.

2. Most of it is a Waste of Time

It's not a secret that we only use a minuscule part of the things that we've learned at school. I know the argument that studying all of those subjects expanded our brains and though us thinking, but I see this as a cheap cop out. Most of us spend between 11 and 13 years in education before we even start talking about a specialized degree and it's between 2 and 3 times the time people spend studying in the university. It is inexcusable that we have so little useful life knowledge and skills. We study so many details and we never get the big picture. We learn to do things that most us will never use in their jobs or personal life. No disrespect to the teachers and principals of the world, but if this is what we have to show for, we are all wasting our times.

We're wasting our time with details while failing to see the big picture.
We're wasting our time with details while failing to see the big picture. | Source

And I know there are alternatives. The students could and should spend much more of their time thinking critically, analyzing information themselves instead of just learning it, do real things, develop their talents and build quality relationships and communities. What we get instead is a river of dry facts, alienation and conformity.

Additionally, I'd like to point out that I'm not saying we should completely throughout Biology, Physics or Math, but we should try to dig ourselves out of the unnecessary details and try to see and understand the big picture. Let's put the emphasis on the really fascinating stuff like the beauty, complexity and diversity of life instead of knowing each and every chemical reaction that is part of the Krebs cycle for Biology. Let's put the emphasis of Physics on the miseries of the universe and the mindbogglingly paradoxes of the quantum world instead of solving interchangeable mathematical problems and learning formulas by heart. Let's use Math class to talk about statistics and use it to analyze our own schools, lives and communities striving to understand things that matter to us and learning to do the math that goes with the analysis along the way. When there's a will, there's a way. We just need to recognize the deficiencies and start addressing them.

3. The Wrong Public Mindsets are Perpetuated by this System

Our educational system is based on assigning ranks to everything. We are though to believe that some jobs and lines of work are better than others and that we all have to live our life as if it's a race. Our education system ranks both us and itself at every chance it gets in order to let us know that most of us are unsuccessful and not part of the the top. It seems like there are predestined paths and each path has a certain rank and we all have to struggle in order to occupy the top paths instead of our peers. We measure success only with how far along a path like that we are.

Some successful people that didn't do well in school

  • Albert Einstein (physicist)
  • Steve Jobs (entrepreneur)
  • Bill Gates (entrepreneur)
  • Thomas Edison (inventor - dropped out of high school)
  • Andrew Jackson (US president - dropped out of high school)
  • Robert De Niro (actor - dropped out of high school


The list goes on and on, but this is a pretty good sample from it.

But if we think about it we will come to the conclusion that all of this paths are imaginary and therefore they should not be part of our education. The valuable members of society that drive progress and make everyone's lives better and the ones that are not burdened by such preconceptions and the ones that are always looking for new unexplored ways to lead to new places. Our education is based on stereotyping people and so is our society.

What the current system brainwashes us to think about life is that we should conform rather than innovate and we all know that this is actually wrong. We are though obedience instead of personal development and a strive for social betterment and reform. This is an immense weight holding the progress of the whole human race down.

4. One Size Never Fits all

Unfortunately, our educational system is built on the idea that everybody's mind works in a similar way and our job is to retain information and use it. We've known for decades that there are at least 8 different types of intelligence with a whole rainbow of things in between and different mixtures. There is no doubt that each of us has been given a unique mind, but our schools fail to take that into account. Our way of thinking is chiseled down to something that would fit the square subject that somebody has chosen for us until it takes the same shape. When a student has a unique talent, they are told to suppress it in order to bombard their mind with useless piles of grey factual information.

Pink Floyd's Take on the Educational System

Each of us is different and each of us needs a different potion of skills and knowledge in order to develop to our full potential. If somebody has a particular talent, they should be allowed to develop it. While we are in school, our uniqueness is simply collapsing under the burden of an unnecessarily crammed school curriculum that wants to turn us into walking encyclopedias with little original taught. A musician should be allowed to be a musician, a mathematician should be allowed to be a mathematician and a runner should be allowed run.

We need to have a much more flexible school curriculum that is based on achieving success in practical tasks by using each student's strengths and talents and there are so many ways to make our schools a much more suitable place for human children instead of the meat-grinders that they are today.

5. The Grading System is Based on the Wrong Values

Being graded in school can actually be quite degrading. Assigning a quality value to a young human being is simply not humanistic. Being graded all the time is actually crippling the students. People learn the most from their mistakes, but mistakes are the worst thing one could do in the context of contemporary schools. We are rewarding following blindly, instead of thinking, risking, evaluating and creating. The best way to get the good grades is to do things exactly in the way you are told to.

But even if we forget the lacking morality behind the grading system, we can easily see that it's far from adequate. The world is full of people that got good grades in school and failed in life and people that got bad grades in school but succeeded in life. This means grades are simply measuring the wrong things and there is no way around it.

I often hear the people saying that grades are imperfect, but there is no better way to do it. This is exactly the type of thinking that results from being graded for the most part of your life. To them I say that there is actually no worse way than grading and we should get rid of it as soon as possible and start building a system that would foster individuals who know how to push the progress of humanity forward. Because progress and innovation starts with embracing mistakes and failure and taking a risk in order to get to a greater good.

6. It Values dry Knowledge Higher than Applicable Skills, Progress, Personality and Creativity

In a way this is my main point and it should require little more explanation by now. The sad truth about modern education is that it works to destroy creativity, personality and personal initiative in favor of standardizing people and their minds in order for them to fit better in to a the factories of 200 years ago.

The modes of teaching are even older - coming from the Middle Ages. There is a teacher that tells you what to think and all your duties are to write it down. And if you don't do what you are told, you are going to be punished. We need to read our textbooks and learn the dry facts as if we are 100% sure they are all true. Until next year somebody will disprove or expand our knowledge on the topic.

Our schools are prisons for the mind.
Our schools are prisons for the mind. | Source

Cast your vote

Did you enjoy going to school?

  • I hated it.
  • I didn't like it much.
  • I have mixed feelings.
  • It was OK.
  • I loved it.
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Naturally there is an alternative. The teachers should be facilitators of discussions and counselors that help you set and reach your personal progress goals and your class's progress goals. Students should learn how to do real things, learn real thing together with their peers utilizing each other's strengths and overcoming individual weaknesses together. Students should be encouraged to create and to shape their own paths. There is an abundance of informal educational projects that have had great success and schools and teachers that have started grass-roots reforms for their small educational communities. We need to wake up to this idea and start exploring. As long as we are asking the questions, the answers will present themselves. And this is how we should educate. We need to embrace the notion that this system has to go - from bottom to top.

Being creative doesn't come from learning information and strict procedures for analysis - it comes from challenging the norms and thinking outside the box. Sadly our schools are currently the box - a prison of the mind.

I would like to see an educational system that embraces independent thought, personal talents, making mistakes along the way, humanistic values and fostering creativity and uniqueness. I'm sure that if we decide to open our eyes to the inadequate education we are paying for and throw the old system away, we will inevitably come to something infinitely better. It will not only make the younger years of our lives more enjoyable, but our society more open, tolerant and productive.

Comments 16 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

I just retired two years ago after eighteen years in the classroom, and I can say without a doubt that each one of your points is accurate. This system is broken from the top to the bottom and needs a complete overhaul. Well done!


Distant Mind profile image

Distant Mind 4 years ago Author

Thank you, Billy. We all know the system is broken, but I can do nothing but admire teachers that devoted so much time to educating.

I really hope we live to see that day that children will go to school will pleasure and interest.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

I hear teachers state all the time how the system doesn't work. It does need a serious restructuring inside and out. Voted up.


Distant Mind profile image

Distant Mind 4 years ago Author

Unfortunately, everybody knows this but the big institutions are scared from change.


sharingknowledge profile image

sharingknowledge 3 years ago from Miami, FL

Thank you for the interesting Hub. To be honest, what you mentioned is true and that is why mots educated graduates even end up on the streets carrying Job search envelops each day that goes by. A follow Back for an update will work. Am following you now. Thanks.


shivangi maurya 3 years ago

I like your thoughts as a teacher .I wish to god that all the teacher's thought changed like you that one size never fitted.


Distant Mind profile image

Distant Mind 3 years ago Author

Thank you for the nice comments.


Adept2012 profile image

Adept2012 3 years ago

Very great hub. I really enjoyed it.


Oscar 2 years ago

Well, congratulations on your article. There are some things which I desagree with, but overall, you made a point: education system is arcaic. You critizise much the gradings, but there has to be still some meritocracy in education, so it isn't fair to try to destroy something that works without even trying to give an alternative. Besides, knowing for the sake of it or knowing things that may not aply ever to your life is actually good and intrensically human. It is true, though, that the first step isnto raise interest in these topics, to make relationships between them and to make people learn to love them.

Anyway, good article, just wanted to throw away some random thoughts after reading it.


HSchneider 2 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

Great analysis, Distant Mind. Our current educational system tends toward teaching to pass standardized tests and not true learning. We must encourage our young people to analyze facts and be creative. Simple memorization will not cut it in our time nor should it.


BruceDPrice profile image

BruceDPrice 2 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va.

I know you are right for the most part. But it's not the whole story. I call this the Ken Robinson Shuffle, by the way.

We should also keep in mind that most of education's failure, day-to-day, is more a function of the breakdown in the teaching of basics. Children have to learn reading, writing, arithmetic, and then start acquiring basic knowledge, before they can go on to any of the things you mention. We have children in middle school who can barely multiply, or read. Naturally, most of their education will be wasted on them. But it's not the fault of that education. It's the fault of that school.


Distant Mind profile image

Distant Mind 2 years ago Author

I think a new approach could help both with the basic things that need to be learned and the advanced ones. It's just needs to be a more engaging and dynamic environment and teacher should become real educators. Of course, it's all easier said than done. The Ken Robinson Shuffle, eh, good one ;)


Doodlebird 2 years ago

Good hub - I've been reading and writing about education for many years - it's a fascinating subject. Especially when you look into the history. A "system" performs like a machine - its 1st priority is to keep itself going. You can't change a single piece without a significant breakdown in the whole. People are unique individuals and will never fit neatly into a scientifically designed system, so we resort to medicating more than is necessary. I agree that drastic change is needed, but is unlikely without a major overhaul (scrap it and start over with a new perspective). I also feel that teachers are the unfortunate scapegoats in the education argument. They're on the front lines and are the public face of the predetermined curriculum that gets imposed upon them. Many have a big heart for kids and really want to make a difference.


Rainbowdream 5 months ago

The worst problem of modern education (from primary school to university) is lack of teaching about human values (love, truth, peace, compasion, non violence, right conduct...). After finishing schools we are not a better human beings than before. Modern education need complete new curs, less theory, much more praxis, learn practical everyday skills, and it must be shortened. Not to mention that every day on this planet about 550 young people (15 - 24 years old) commits suicide, by one Research in UK from 2002. 70% becouse of "academic stress". Or simply - modern education is for life dangerous product.


BruceDPrice profile image

BruceDPrice 5 months ago from Virginia Beach, Va.

All good points but also part of the Education Establishment's Standard Alibi Package, which is used to keep saps in line.

The key phrase is this book title "The deliberate dumbing down of America." Deliberate. The people in control of K-12 education tend to be socialist in their thinking. They like leveling and mediocrity. So they are happy to have all these excuses and alibis, and they can go right on dumbing down the schools and nobody will notice the real cause.


Distant Mind profile image

Distant Mind 9 days ago Author

Bruce, your use of the term socialist is a clear example of lack of basic education and basic critical thinking abilities or application. It shows me that you haven't devoted even a single second to examining what you are talking about critically. If I were you, I would refrain from using terms I don't understand. Your conspiracy theory take on this is as shallow as they get.

Just to make things clear: countries that are more social or socialist in the modern sense of the word tend to have better education, not worse. It's absolutely moronic to say socialist thinking values mediocrity. Read up on countries like Finland, their values and their educational systems before you embarrass yourself more.

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