In this day and age, there is more of a demand than ever for unique and creative people in the workforce. However, at the same time, there is also a severe lack of people who are able to develop unique ideas. This is in part attributed to the American education system and the way it prepares students for the world.
Students today are developed to fit into a mold and then to be sent out to become the faceless suits of the world. This is centered around an old, outdated need to mass-produce factory workers during the industrial era.
This starts at an early age when kids are put into a “testing culture” where kids are taught to memorize dates and facts rather than to understand what they are learning. This happens because the school system puts an emphasis on measuring students through testing and so teachers focus only on getting kids to remember ”relevant” information.
What this means, is that by the time most people finish their schooling, they are used to being given information and memorizing it. This works if someone is going to be a factory worker or today’s equivalent: a random office worker but if a student wants to have an interesting or an enjoyable job they need to be able to creatively problem-solve.
This testing culture pressures teachers too, they have to constantly make sure that what they are doing is up to the standard for the test. “Teachers end up really being pushed to document every single thing that they’re doing, but specifically how what they’re doing every single day with every worksheet and every everything relates to an end of course test.” Says Art Teacher Marea Haslett.
Due to this teachers end up having to make kids memorize every little bit of information for their tests, whether they like it or not. Kids get taught and prepared for tests, but once the test passes, the information is pushed out to make room for the next text and they forget it entirely. Because this is all students know they rarely go out of their way to do or learn anything more.
One way to counteract the testing culture of memorization is to find and utilize a creative outlet. “My entire sophomore year was just a bunch of STEM classes and no creative outlet for me whatsoever,” Says Julia, a Stem student who is a part of the art program in her senior year.
“Going into junior year I took some more literature and art-based courses… and getting back into that it was so refreshing -getting that side of my brain working again.”
Building a creative outlet helped Julia not only in creativity-based courses but also in all of her courses. This is one example of many times that finding some way to creatively express oneself leads people to grow and have experiences that last for the rest of their lives. A creative outlet can come in the form of simple doodling or dance or maybe choir. Whatever it is, no matter how big or small, it can still positively affect one’s life.
The Finnish school system seems to have at least taken a step in the right direction to remedying this issue. In Finland, they start education at an older age. When American children are learning their ABCs and 1,2,3s in kindergarten at the age of 5, their peers in Finland spend their day partaking in creative play until second grade.
This teaches children first to seek out new things to grow rather than have said things spoon-fed to them. If a child is taught at an early age to seek out creativity then they are more likely to develop some sort of creative abilities later on. The Finnish also do not preform standardized testing,
One issue with today’s school system is the insistence on grading and evaluating students in every aspect it can. “In Cumming elementary, one program they had was the Horizons program, and one of the things they ‘measured’ was creativity. You would look at a circle and they would ask you ‘what does this look like to you?’ and if you were not able to ‘score’ high enough on the creativity scale you could not get in”
“I love(ironically) how the school measures creativity based off of nothing as if it is something that you can put a formula to or something that we can statistically track.” Says Shelbi Linton, Junior at FCHS.
Another thing students are fed is misconceptions about their choices after school. There are more stable careers than an engineer or a chemist. The truth is that art careers are actually on the rise. There are art careers ranging from being a college professor or an art therapist to being in marketing and graphic design. Students can even study film making in high school and completely skip college to go straight into the movie industry.
Students are expected to go straight from high school to college to a stable job. But in truth, a stable job is not worth much if it does not make you happy or at least you have something to make you happy outside of it. This mentality of college and a stable job is all that matters is pushed onto students from day one and they not only believe it, but they refuse to believe otherwise in some cases.
Simply addressing the issue will not do anything to change it for the better. Students, as well as everyone else, need to take matters into their own hands and make a difference. Because otherwise, nothing is going to change.