Context: This piece was written as a discussion post for a Sociology module in college. It is my response to a video called “Do schools kill creativity” by Sir Ken Robinson. I look at school and the failures I felt both then and now. who knows, it might resonant with you too. Enjoy :)
“I wish I could see what other people are doing” I ponder as I stare at my blank word document “then I could see what the right way to do this is”. I feel as though a part of me freezes when asked my opinion, whether that is during a conversation with friends or in a classroom. My immediate instinct is that my opinion is wrong. That there is a right one and that I am not smart enough to know the answer. I believe this is a value that has been instilled within me since school. A system where your worth as a human is equated to a number scribbled in red pen at the top of a handout and your future is handed to you signed in a jumble of the first five letters of the alphabet.
I wonder would the wrong way to start this piece be with a personal insight? To tell my classmates how scared I am about being wrong? How scared I am to mess up and stumble and look foolish in front of them. As Sir Ken Robinson mentions in his insightful and compelling Ted Talk “Do schools kill creativity”, however, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong you’ll never come up with anything original”.
I may be starting on the wrong foot but at least it is original.
It is easy to see why this is the most viewed Ted Talk of all time with over 19 million views. Robinson, a lecturer in education and the arts, speaks passionately and openly about how the current education system can squash creativity. He discusses how everyone learns differently so it is unfair to be boxed together, confined within a system that does not want you to think outside it. In school one is not taught to give their opinion they are told to give the right opinion. It allows for many children to feel disillusioned by education and see it as a challenge rather than an opportunity.
When I think about school I often think about failure. Personal failures, educational failures and emotional failures. In hindsight many of these weren’t failures but simply mistakes.
Failure in itself is a weighty emotion. It is an emotion that once picked up and placed on oneself is hard to shift. It is with you through many facets of life whether that is school, college, friendships or relationships. It stares back at you in the mirror and sneers at your outfit and peers over your shoulder when your reach for a biscuit with your tea. It hugs you close the night before you get your college results and tucks you to bed after a non-productive day.
With regards to failure one of the Ted Talks that has had a huge impact on me is “How one tweet can ruin your life” by Jon Ronson. Ronson is an author, investigative journalist and creator of the podcast “The Butterfly Effect”. In 2015, he wrote a book called “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” which looks at the impact of social media and cancel culture. This Ted Talk is the essence of the book as it examines the impact a tweet had on the life of a normal woman called Justine Sacco. Sacco sent out a tweet in the early 2010’s. The trolling, backlash and threats she faced after, Ronson believes, were far worse than her ‘liberal joke’. Ronson examines the social media surveillance system we have created for ourselves where we set everyone to unrealistic standards and lurk quietly in the background simply waiting for the next person to fall victim to the online masses. In the digital world it is not unusual to witness “cancelling” online daily. Ronson places the human back into the cancelling equation and allows for one to see the real consequences it can have on lives.
A podcast that I believe is worth listening to, regarding failures, is “How to Fail” by Elizabeth Day. In the podcast, Day meets with actors, doctors, writers, reality stars and everyone in between and discusses their three biggest life failures and what they learnt from them. It allows for you to see how others, many very successful creative individuals, perceive themselves, gain insight on how they grew from these mistakes and learn from the way they analyse their failures.
Over the week something caught my eye on social media with regards to creativity and something I believe Sir Ken Robinson would have had a lot to comment on. It was a UK advertisement which was encouraging creatives, in this specific ad it was a ballerina, to “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot” to a cyber career. This ad garnered a large amount of attention online as many creatives felt let down. Many were quick to highlight the reality that a creative had photographed the shoot, a stylist had dressed the model, the shoes were created by a design, the text was designed by a typographer, the layout was created by a graphic designer. Those who retained their creativity throughout school are now being taunted about it in their adult lives.
The outrage online conveyed that Sir Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk is still necessary and important. Creativity is not something that should be extinguished, it should not be seen as convertible or squeezed out of us in school. It should be celebrated, our fear of failing should not let us stand in the way of being original both online or off and that maybe we should all try fail better next time.
I am just wondering if anyone saw this advertisement on social media this week and if they have any opinions? Also if anyone has any thoughts on Jon Ronson’s Ted Talk or has any experience with a ‘joke’ getting out of hand in real life versus online?
Day, E., 2018. David Nicholls. [podcast] How to Fail. Available at: <https://howtofail.podbean.com/e/how-to-fail-david-nicholls/> [Accessed 16 October 2020].
Robinson, K.(2007, Jan 7). Do schools kill creativity? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY&t=15s [Accessed 16 October 2020].
Ronson, J (2015, Jul 20). How one tweet can ruin your life [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAIP6fI0NAI&t=850s [Accessed 16 October 2020].
Ronson, J. (2017). The Butterfly Effect with Jon Ronson. Available at: http://www.jonronson.com/butterfly.html [Accessed 16 October 2020].
Ronson, J. (2016). So you’ve been publicly shamed. Riverhead Books.