Do schools kill creativity?

Do schools kill creativityThe other day I watched a video on YouTube dealing with the education system and the influence it has on natural human creativity. The video was of the 20-minute talk given at the end of a conference by Sir Ken Robinson. He raised some interesting points, and gave a very graphic explanation of how the aim of most schools is to train and programme children to meet academic requirements. Gradually, the creative instincts of children die because they are not nurtured, and individuals who are artistic rather than academic eventually believe they are inferior to those who are good at maths and science.
It is strange how great a shift takes place when children go to elementary school. In Hungary children start ‘real’ school at the age of six or perhaps seven. Until then, during the years they attend nursery school, their days are filled with play, fairy and folk stories, music and children’s rhymes, painting and drawing. Children are encouraged to be creative; at least, they are exposed to many things that provide an outlet for their creativity. Then, when children leave nursery school and begin their first year at elementary or primary school, they are suddenly faced with new demands. They must learn to conform to standard requirements. Children must practise until they are able to form letters that precisely match those the teacher has inscribed on the board, and a picture that is an expression of a child’s most creative thoughts is pigeonholed according to a number (mark) the teacher scribbles at the bottom of the drawing.
And yet, creativity is said to be an important aspect of intelligence. Most modern IQ tests include sections that measure creativity, because we now realise that human intelligence is not purely a mental thing, but is also emotional and creative. Why is it, then, that so much emphasis is placed on the sciences, and that mathematics is still at the top of subject hierarchy? One reason is that parents encourage their children to study and do well in subjects that will help them find employment. Hardly anyone would agree that studying art or acting was the sure way to a successful career. Likewise, very few writers can boast of being financially secure. If so, it has taken them years to make themselves a name.

Most schools feel obliged to offer a curriculum in line with society’s expectations; indeed, there are certain governmental stipulations that regulate what is taught in schools, and even the methods that can be used.
However, there are schools that diverge from generally accepted content and methodology in order to allow children to develop their abilities and natural creativity. These include the Waldorf and Montessori schools, which are not mainstream, but are still the choice of thousands of parents all over the world, who want their children to have an education that nurtures creativity and allows children to develop their natural talents and abilities. The existence of such schools shows that there is still hope for human creativity.

At Hungarian Language Solutions we try using this natural creativity during our lessons and help you reconnect with your inner creative self. We watch you very closely to see which are the areas you enjoy and where you feel most creative. This is very important, as this happens to be the same place where you can achieve the creative state called the ‘Flow’ (for more information on this please read our article)
Our aim is to keep you in this creative state and use it wisely, so we design exercises that help us do this. This way, hopefully, we don’t just teach Hungarian, but add something you enjoy, something extra that enhances your life!
What do you think? Do you find it easy to reconnect with your inner creative self? Do you find doing this helps when learning Hungarian?

Do you know how to get into a state of ‘Flow’ when learning a new language?

In 2011 I was lucky enough to have been awarded an EU-grant which allowed me to travel to Munich, Germany, and attend a course on intercultural communication. As part of the course I not only met six amazing professionals passionate about their chosen fields, but also learnt about the famous theorists and their work and how this can influence my own work in a very practical way.

Before attending the course there was one particular topic with regard to teaching Hungarian which was quite often on my mind. At the time I had not known there was a famous theory on this, I just felt there was ‘a narrow strip of land’ on which my learners can confidently navigate, where they find the lessons challenging without being too demanding.

For if they find the lessons too easy, they can get bored and we certainly do not want that; and if I put the bar too high, they may find the lessons too difficult, and so get frustrated and lose interest.

We discussed this with every learner of mine, and agreed that we need to communicate in an honest and very open way to make sure we can find that place where they feel comfortable, but not too comfortable. Learners’ feedback is crucial so that we can find this ‘strip of land’ which in some cases can, indeed, be quite narrow.

It was a very nice reassurance that during Assist International HR’s Intercultural Communication Course in Munich I learnt about Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (pronounced “chicks send me high” according to the Professor!), a fellow Hungarian who  worked out the theory we now refer to as the ‘Flow’. According to this, people are most happy when they are in a state of flow, i.e. when they are fully immersed and don’t even notice time passing.

According to Csíkszentmihályi some people find it easier to get into a state of ‘Flow’ than others. These are people with an autotelic personality, i.e. people whose personality traits include persistence, low self-centeredness and curiosity. However this does not mean that only this group of people can get into the ‘Flow’, on the contrary: I am sure that everyone can find this magical state and there are several methods which can help with this.

For a great view on how to achieve the ‘Creative State of Flow’, please read Victor Stachura’s superb article.

I personally think that learning a new language can be a very rewarding experience and one, that, similar to playing music, is perfectly capable of getting people into the ‘Flow’. I am also convinced that it works the other way around also: a state of ‘Flow’ can immensely help the language learning process. When I teach Hungarian I do my absolute best to get each and every person into this state and help them increase the time they spend in ‘Flow’.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you find it easy to get into the ‘Flow’?