Column: Do schools educate the creativity out of children?

Hope Leinen, Staff Writer

This question was posed in one of my English courses this semester and has stuck with me since then. 

As a double major in both biomedical sciences and English, I have experienced both sides of the spectrum — I have been praised for my ambition in the sciences, and scolded for my passion for English. 

I’ve been told that I will achieve very little if I were to pursue a career related to one of my majors, English. I’ve been told that I should never have double majored. 

There is this predisposed stigma that the ‘arts’ are no longer worth knowing, that they are somewhat inferior to the sciences, or STEM. 

STEM, the acronym used to refer to the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Students like me have been conditioned to view these as the subjects worth educating oneself on. Studying these topics will help us break new ground as a society, save lives, go to new planets and so on. 

But does STEM elicit an emotional reaction? I’m not talking about the advancements that the sciences can make to improve health or the mechanical advancements of society to better our future. I’m talking about real, true emotions: comfort, pain, sorrow, happiness, peace, etc. 

While the sciences are important, I don’t see why there has always been this stigma saying the ‘arts’ are inferior. Historically, the arts have started and prevented revolutions all around the world. The arts are a form of expression, a means of progression different from that of science. 

However, when was your last recollection of the arts being celebrated over the sciences? When was the last time that the arts took any sort of spotlight in the mainstream? What is your earliest memory of someone telling you that the arts were nice to enjoy, but nothing to make a career out of? 

I remember hearing this as early as sixth grade. I had taken an interest in art history and English, but I was constantly told by adults that I couldn’t, make a career out of it. It was a ‘hobby,’ not a career.  

I attended public schools, which placed STEM on a pedestal and encouraged my peers and I to focus on these areas of study. Do I think all schools educate the creativity out of children? I don’t know. I can only reflect on my own experiences. I have no idea what the curriculums look like at other schools

The real focus of this question lies within childhood. Children are some of the most creative people in the world, so why are so many adults lacking? 

I don’t think that this happens overnight, but I do think that it happens. There is a shift at some point in a child’s education; the focus shifts from encouraging self expression and creativity to encouraging for competition and success. 

Ultimately, it is no secret, or surprise, that many schools prioritize a STEM education over the arts, not only through the power of suggestion, but through funding and curriculum requirements. However, the repression of creativity in the youth could be detrimental to society. 

The arts are important in society. The fact of the matter is society needs thinkers who don’t see problems as simply black and white, right and wrong. I think that is what the arts offer. By studying the arts, one can adopt a “grey” way of thinking. 

The education I received throughout grade school conditioned me to think a certain way, to solve problems by showing your work, to write a certain way, format your work a certain way and ultimately, to not be too complex in your ideas. In addition to advocating for the arts and their value, I want to advocate for nurturing creativity and self expression in students throughout their educational career.