Schools Need to Stress Creative Learning

America’s education system has taught us that in order for students to be successful, American academics must improve. However, the capabilities of creativity continue to be underestimated. To grow past this mindset, we need to fund the development of after-school programs and integrate more electives as school requirements; this encourages children to set both academics and creativity as a foundation of their intelligence.

Creativity, according to Ken Robinson in his TEDtalk titled “Do Schools Kill Creativity,” is defined as “the process of having original ideas that have value.” This process is lacking within the curriculum of America’s elementary schools. Elementary schools focus on four major academic subjects: math, language arts, science and history. Less focus is put on creative subjects such as music, dance, art and P.E. Focus on creativity stimulates the development of problem-solving skills and original ideas. We are taught to get from point A to point B and receive praise for doing so. However, we are not praised for creative freedom and instead are taught to do things systematically. As a result, we are stuck with an education system that favors academics more than creativity.

The emphasis on academics should be addressed by funding after-school programs that encourage a creative environment. The UCI Extended Day Center allows elementary students from K-6 to reach their creative potential by playing outside, playing games, building arts and crafts, making cooking recipes, creating music and collaborating on schoolwork. Carolina A. Miranda, a Los Angeles Times staff writer, says that these various forms of free play can help children develop dexterity for different skills such as communication within different group dynamics.

Another way to address this problem is by incorporating more elective classes as school requirements. Students would then be able to freely choose subjects that spark their interests. Ernie Rambo of Education Week says that teachers who teach elective classes have more freedom in developing creative projects for students to participate in. These creative projects allow students to work with one another and help them to develop practical skills and discover hidden passions or talents. Since electives incorporate more collaborative activities, students can also develop social and behavioral skills.

In today’s world, technology is constantly evolving, global environments and health present difficult tasks, and political and economic challenges exist. The creative skills that children develop can be significant in shaping their world’s future. It is up to us as adults to expose children to free play environments where they can expand their creative potential at their own leisure.

Despite these advantages, funding for after-school programs continues to be criticized by the government. Congress’ Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed by President Trump, could negatively impact what is already a struggling situation for funding among K-12 schools. These proposed funding cuts could potentially shut down school programs that provide additional education to students. After-school programs, which fit into this realm of funding cuts, could potentially reduce the exposure of children to free play environments. Since 1990, creativity scores among K-12 students calculated from the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking have decreased. Removing funds for schools that provide after-school programs may not be a good investment for America’s future.

Although some people may argue that K-12 classes already offer environments where students can express their creativity, they mostly incorporate academic teaching methods. It can also be argued that recess provides an environment that encourages creative freedom. However, the amount of time that children are able to participate in free play during recess is very limited. After-school programs enable students to have extended free play and allow time for students to discover their creative selves. According to pediatrician Kenneth R. Ginsburg, M.D., free play stimulates creative thought and the reconfiguration of information which helps the development of new ideas.

Ultimately, we should not risk losing the creative potential for the future leaders of America by cutting funds for after-school programs and should instead fund them to improve creative capacity.

Joshua Montefalcon is a fourth-year public health sciences major. He can be reached at jmontefa@uci.edu.