A paradigm shift in education

Published on Aug 27, 2014 by Claudia

A paradigm shift in education – a more creative outlook?

The above video makes a persuasive case for the introduction of a more creative outlook on education, and the discovery of the richness of human capacity. It parallels my personal journey, which I’ll use as a case study. On reflection, my education was a case of playing the game and “winning” in the limited education system that I had. I was somebody who excelled academically, often had some of the highest test scores in many subjects, achieved top grades and gained a First Class degree. I rarely had confidence issues from an academic viewpoint, and I relished the challenge of exams rather than them making me feel sick to the stomach. You could say that I had an inflated sense of self-worth, as I was fortunate enough to excel in a system that suited my abilities.

Upon reflection, I realised that most of my academic abilities would serve me well in order to work reactively, and to function as somebody with competent abilities, but not as an innovator, one with an enviable talent of cultivating ideas that seem so simple yet elegant and make you question why it had never been thought of. It had created bias so entrenched that it only operated at an unconscious level – particularly over what was viewed as intelligence, and what seemed like suitably academic subjects. I remember once being asked to list my non academic achievements when I was 11 and it was the first time that I wasn’t furiously scribbling the answer, I twisted my pen for about ten minutes, looked out the window and stopped after writing “One of my non academic achievements is…”

The art (or is it science? or both?) of thinking critically and creatively, to free the mind of bias and constraints – it’s almost like meditation, so difficult to achieve because of the noise generated by the outside world getting in the way. It does come with practice, and it is ultimately liberating having the mental tools in place to question, to venture, to break apart things that once seemed like indestructible axioms of truth. Such a mindset can improve practically any aspect of life – from introspection into how you process things emotionally, to interpersonal relationships, to solutions to a problem at work, to generating a new creative piece of work.

One day, I sung along to one of my favourite songs, and found that it was something I wanted to do again. I remember my first recording, and it was the start of me starting singing lessons, and nurturing a creative spirit I never realised I had. I experienced that appeal that many singers have, that feeling of “becoming a new person”, or as I prefer to see it, un-becoming anything that isn’t authentic, with the rest of life being a “performance”.

It was this that led me to one epiphany – many people limit themselves to their self definition, and what they decide they’re good at. In my case, I had previously defined myself as “left brained”, capable of analytical and memory-oriented tasks. I imagine for those that define themselves as more “right brained” or “less academic” would struggle within the education system and resign themselves as not being the academic type. However, much of our abilities is simply determined by what we think we’re good at, or our preconceived notions of the capacities of the human mind. Many of us believe that if we’re good at maths and sciences, we can’t be as creative, we’re just not “that type”, or vice versa. But while it can’t be denied that people can have natural capacities towards certain abilities, often we neglect huge areas of our capacity simply because we have already decided we don’t, or can’t have them.

Even if we realise this, this mentality of only being able to be good at a certain set of things is internalised in our thinking – how often have you heard that “he’s intelligent, but has no common sense”, or “she isn’t very academic but she’s good with making things”. We often have this internalised mentality of a limit to what people can do, and often have a filtered perception, meaning that we only see the examples that confirm our bias. I believe it is the training of our minds to be aware of, and free our internalised biases, that is the real education we need.