Home homeschooling Rethinking Education: School Kills Creativity (Part 2)

Rethinking Education: School Kills Creativity (Part 2)

by Kelly Crawford

Rethinking Education: School Kills Creativity

(Part 1: Rethinking Education: Are School Subjects Necessary)

I decided to do this series on education not because I am opposed to the public school system (which I am, on many levels), and not because I think everyone should homeschool (which I do, more or less), but because all of us are affected by the way we collectively educate our children. And if something we place so much stock in could be improved, or is perhaps even harmful to some children, shouldn’t we all be willing to consider alternatives?

“I’ve noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my 25 years of teaching — that schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aids and administrators but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers do care and do work very hard the institution is psychopathic, it has no conscience. It rings a bell and the young man in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to different cell where he must memorize that man and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.” John Taylor Gatto, Teacher of the Year Acceptance Speech

And while I think there are many different ways to educate a child (precisely what this series is about) and so not “a” right way, our greatest dilemma is thinking that there is only one way to educate–by the same classroom method you and I were taught, the same method proving substantially lacking for producing well-rounded, equipped-for-life individuals. (I keep envisioning a t-shirt that says, “Everything I’ve ever learned, I learned after graduation.”)

Think Outside the Classroom

Which is why I wrote the book, Think Outside the Classroom, a great start for a practical overview of what I call “relaxed homeschooling”, a more natural approach to learning. (You can grab it here.)

“Nothing gave me more confidence as a homeschool mom than this book. Thank you a thousand times!” -Rosa M.


There are so many problems with the current system of education, we will have to take them one at a time. Ken Robinson gives a brilliant, hilarious and deeply thought-provoking spin on the tragedy of killing our creativity in the system (and why that is so bad), and what it does to swarms of brilliant kids. He also briefly mentions a little about the history of the system and why it was created, which should give us great pause. This is a talk you don’t want to miss!


Schools Kill Creativity

“[Reform] in education is no use anymore. Because that is simply improving a broken model…this has to be transformed into something else.” Ken Robinson, Bring on the Learning Revolution

Robinson’s follow-up talk, Bring on the Revolution, given four years later, is equally brilliant if not more helpful in revealing the problems of our current educational system.

Part 3: The Overrated College Degree-What About Apprenticeship?

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Patricia September 18, 2012 - 11:43 pm

Thank you for addressing this topic. One of the many reasons we began homeschooling is that I was concerned that my then 4 year old son, who had an unusually long attention span, would be trained out of that gift by jumping subjects every 15 minutes in Kindergarten. (The teacher explained this was the only way to maintain order and attention for this age group.) 10 years later, we have no regrets, and thankfully, our now teen son still has a long attention span for creativity and problem solving.

Smitti September 19, 2012 - 7:57 am

Thoroughly enjoyed the video. (Frank sent this!) The topic gives me hope for my math-hating daughter who enjoys drawing and writing. It also strikes me as a possible reflection of heaven – people using their gifts (things they love to do and that they do well) to praise God and help others.

Charity September 19, 2012 - 8:04 am

Is there a video? There’s just a large blank spot in the post for me. Any ideas on how I could view it?

Word Warrior September 19, 2012 - 8:28 am

Try a different browser–I use Google Chrome. OR, you can just go to youtube and type in “Ken Robinson–Schools Kill Creativity”.

Charity September 19, 2012 - 9:18 am

Thanks Kelly! I’m a bit “technically challenged” (I wasn’t homeschooled 😉

Sherry September 19, 2012 - 9:21 am

I have been studying this problem for the greater part of 24 years, and I agree with much of Robinson’s findings. But there is an element that we need to realize that is not brought out by Robinson or Schank; God is in control, and it is not simply our wants or needs that dictate our life circumstances. School does not need to be the bed of creativity, but it needs to place tools in the hands of children so that they will be able to creatively pursue God’s call on their lives. This is a fine nuance, but it is necessary for the Christian to realize that the humanistic idea that “self-gratification” is the highest end of man is false. For me and my house, this has meant that we have turned back the hands of time to when educating was an art, before children were thought of as little “machines”. I have been so impressed by the methods of those in the early part of the 19th century who did not overstep the bounds of the human spirit, but gave just enough structure and teaching, then set individuals free! This is the balance that I have not been able to achieve without help from the past, since I, too, have been so influenced by my own upbringing.

I’m really enjoying this discussion, thank you, Kelly.

Word Warrior September 19, 2012 - 9:30 am

Sherry–thank you for such an important and excellent reminder! This is why “unschooling” in its purest form is not suitable for the Christian family, in my opinion. It places children almost as their own authority when the Bible warns about that and commands us to guide them in all wisdom. You’re right…a fine line.

Carolina September 19, 2012 - 3:53 pm

I totally agree with you in this about unschooling. (See my comment in the previous post).

Word Warrior September 19, 2012 - 5:06 pm


I’ve been thinking more about this and actually left a comment in the previous post to you and Erica 😉 I’m wondering if it’s not more that many unschoolers tend to ignore the biblical principles of parent/child authority that we don’t like, rather than the method of unschooling itself? I’d be interested to hear both of your thoughts regarding that comment. Oh let me just paste it here to save you the trouble:

“Carolina and Erica,

I’ve had random thoughts about unschooling–considering how opposed many Christians are to it, and asking myself, in light of my responsibility to raise disciplined children who respect authority and structure, about the advantages and disadvantages of what is called “unschooling”.

To me, unschooling takes its cue from natural learning processes. And this is the part I find most agreeable and intriguing. When a child is born, he is learning. We haven’t enrolled him into “school” yet, but he is learning as much as any student will once formally considered school-age.

Isn’t he unschooling? And does that mean that I’ve removed all restraints and am instilling bad habits in him just because he is learning according to his own curiosity? He still has boundaries. Expectations. Structure. Discipline. But his learning habits are following precisely what intrigues him. (Didn’t God think of this?) If he picks up an object, I tell him the name of it, repeat it again, and maybe add “isn’t that interesting?” If he points out the window, I follow him there and help him identify what he is interested in. Isn’t this “unschooling”? I can’t think of any other method by which this toddler could learn more than the natural curiosity given to him at birth.

As such, why is this kind of learning suitable for our toddlers and suddenly harmful for our older children? That question, by the way, isn’t meant to be “my conclusion”. It is a question to myself, and for others to ponder and input as they would like 😉

And also, I certainly see that many parents who advocate “radical unschooling” DO violate my personal Christian beliefs about child/parent roles, authority, etc. I can see where this might cause us to reject the whole idea. But I’m wondering if we are throwing the baby out with the bath water? Or at least that there are some fantastic nuggets of wisdom we could glean from the general idea behind unschooling.”

Carolina September 19, 2012 - 7:52 pm

I guess it is more a matter of vocabulary, of what we understand by “unschooling”. As I said in the other post, I do not mean just flexibility, following your child’s interest and natural ways of learning, not being bound to the curriculum… I mean what I see in the parents that I know in person who call themselves unschoolers: they let the children (still young) decide everything by themselves. If they do not want to practice multiplication, they do not have to. If they do not want to read books (in this case teenagers too) they do not have, if they want to watch TV the whole day, that’s OK. I desagree with the John Holt ideology that your child knows better and that we should not interfiere, that everything turns around the child. This is what I call unschooling because this is what I have seen in the -non Christian BTW- parents who practise it. They go often hand in hand with the attached parenting idea of no discipline, etc.

Word Warrior September 19, 2012 - 8:46 pm

I think you’re right; it is a lot more of “what we see in most people we know who call themselves ‘unschoolers'” that bothers us. However, I want to be careful not to become guilty of this stereotyping as I have been the victim of it too. (“Most conservative homeschoolers with large families….” fill in the blank.)

I am definitely not an advocate of child-centered homes…not at all. But I keep going back to my thoughts about the way children begin learning, and wonder if we let this process continue, what would happen? Just still random thoughts of mine 😉

Lucy September 20, 2012 - 12:11 pm

I make a distinction between “unschooling” and “unparenting”. Unschooling is fine, but you still explain things to the child, guide his thought process and control his secular influences whether a toddler or an eighth grader. Unparenting, on the other hand, removes the mental guidance e.g. the child “figures out” the emotion of thank you on his own and eventually decides if he ever wants to engage in verbal expression of it or not, assumption being if/when he does it will be only heartfelt and meaningful. Naomi Aldoort, to name a popular ‘unschooling’ advocate actually advocates unparenting, by my definitions anyway.

Word Warrior September 20, 2012 - 1:46 pm


That’s a great clarification. And the difference is essential but I think there are some great elements of the philosophy of “unschooling” (as in the example I gave that all our children are unschooled when they’re little) that are overlooked because we get the terms mixed up and lump the two that you mentioned together.

Erica September 19, 2012 - 11:46 am

Kelly, thank you so much for these thought-provoking posts! My husband and I aren’t blessed with children yet, but when we do have them, these will definitely aid in how we think about homeschooling.

Sherry, do you have any resources (websites, books, etc.) that delve into early 19th century-style teaching that you refer to? It would be particularly helpful if they contained a biblical perspective as well (so hard to find these days!).

God bless you ladies–you are all such an example to me as a young, twenty-something Christ follower!

Sherry September 19, 2012 - 2:47 pm

Dear Erica, (If you will indulge me, Kelly)I have actually written a book, available in print here: http://www.amazon.com/Homeschool-Sanity-Practical-Redemptive-Educating/dp/1478164425 (also as a pdf from my blog), which would give you a good overview and pretty much covers all of the areas you mentioned, and I have two blogs, Large Family Mothering, http://www.ladyofvirtue.blogspot.com and Homeschool Sanity, http://www.mcguffeysworld.blogspot.com that go into more depth.

Jordin September 19, 2012 - 3:16 pm


I’m not Sherry, but the Charlotte Mason approach to education strikes that beautiful balance. You might find this website helpful:


Erica September 20, 2012 - 12:11 pm

Thanks so much, Sherry & Jordin! I will definitely avail myself to those resources.

God bless!

Laine September 19, 2012 - 4:04 pm

I will buy the t-shirt! 🙂 (“Everything I ever learned, I learned after graduation”) LOVE IT!

I read the speech by the gentleman who was teacher of the year…it was well said. What a bold man he was…and that was 22 years ago. He listed some of the attacks on family back then, and I can just imagine how the attacks are even greater now in this advanced technological age….

Thanks for posting this series, Kelly!

Word Warrior September 19, 2012 - 7:02 pm

Well that’s one customer 😉

John Taylor Gatto, who wrote the speech, has some excellent, excellent articles/books. His book “The Dumbing Down of America” is life-changing. You can read his book, The Underground History of American Education” for free here: https://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/index.htm

Jennifer September 20, 2012 - 1:48 pm

I’ve always wanted to post a comment on your WONDERFUL blog posts, but, I’ve never found the time to do it! Well today my 4 little ones (4 and under) are all napping and I’m going to take a quick moment to do it!

I wanted you to know that all your posts and espcially those on education have been a GREAT encouragement to our family. It is espcially helpful for my husband to know that there are others who have a similar line of thinking. Here is a small glimpse of our story….

My husband (29) and brother-in-law (31) were both public school teachers, for 6 and 8 years. Last fall they started on their Masters of Education Degree at a local Christian University. They took a class called The History and Philosophy of Education. During this class they began to compile their own personal philosophy of education through weekly writing assignments. During this time they began to see Public Education in a whole different way and began to seek out others who might have a similar (biblical) view on education. Around this time the film, Indoctrination, came out on DVD. After seeing the film (probably 6 or 7 times through) and finishing the class back in December my husband and my brother-in-law came to the prayerful conclusion that they could not continue to work in the schools system, and would only finish out their contracts through the end of the school year (2011-2012). Not only could they not support Public Education any longer for 100 biblical, ethical, and moral reasons (alot of which you have written about), but they also found out part of their school contract is agreeing to follow the NC Code of Ethics, which has a clause in it basically stating they would not teach according to their viewpoint (the bible) or share the gospel with students. This they have always had every intention of doing along with trying to be “salt and light”. They knew if they signed that contract again they would either be intentionally going against their employers, by teaching from a biblical worldview and sharing the gospel, or being insubordinate to God if they did not do those things and tried to remain neutral. It wasn’t an option for them, my husband as a History Teacher, could only teach history with God as its author. My brother in law could only teach PE with God as the Master Designer of our bodies. So, back in February when they were to turn in a “letter of intent” to the school system, regarding the 2012-2013 school year, both signed stating they would not be returning to their current jobs. They had no jobs lined up to replace their income. They decided to take a stand against the public education system, trusting the Lord would provide another means of income for our families. They have received much ridicule from friends and family, even professing Christians for taking such an action. Especially since we are young families with several young children and our husbands provide the only monetary income for our families. However, the Lord has proven faithful! Although neither one have found some “GREAT & WONDERFUL” replacement job making the money they were before, we have yet to miss any due payments or lack in anything we needed. The Lord has streched our faith and is teaching us to trust Him like never before!

Thank you again for all your encouragement! We live in WNC and I told my husband if we had a house just a little closer to the White Unto Harvest Conference I would offer your family a place to stay if you attended. However, we are like 50+ mins away out in the country-Not ideal. Plus we just sold our house and will be moving to a small rental that same week.

Keep up the great posts!

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6 arrows September 27, 2012 - 1:43 pm

I’ve mentioned this book before, but I’ll say here again that I’m reading a book by Sir Ken Robinson right now, entitled The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. In the book, Robinson expands on many of the thoughts he brings up in the videos linked to in this post. I’m not quite halfway through the book, but have found it very thought-provoking and well-written thus far. If you liked the videos, then I encourage reading the book, as well. Very worthwhile.

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