By Emily Buckley
Everyone remembers their simple childhood days of playing pretend and make-believe, whether they created dramatic, intricate lives for their Barbie dolls, filled with love and betrayal, or played life-threatening games of escaping the lava that consumed the floor. Children are clearly innately curious and imaginative, but this creativity is suppressed when they enter school due to the standardization of education and the school system’s tendency to favor academic classes over the fine arts.
Most kids spend the majority of their time at school, learning societal standards by observing their peers and listening to their teachers. The lessons learned from school, taught at a very young and impressionable age, are the flaw in the system that initiates the shift from imaginative and individualistic thoughts to the conformist ideas we have as a society.
Parents, peers, and teachers constantly stress the importance of vigorous courses in math and science, all pushing for the final result of acceptance into college. Students who excel in academic classes are praised as geniuses, whereas artistic geniuses in band, orchestra, art, chorus, or dance are left feeling unappreciated and undermined. Schools care more about subjects with definitive correct answers and a quantitative way to analyze intelligence through test scores. Creativity can't be taught or measured with a number; it can only be fostered and nurtured with encouragement that schools fail to give it, causing it to die out.
Within academic classes, creativity is shut down. The teacher has absolute authority in the classroom, and students who contradict the teacher are disciplined. Schools teach students to willingly absorb everything teachers say without hesitation, leading to a society that fails to question authority. The teaching methods used in schools rely heavily on the material in the textbook. Teachers are forced to go along with a country-wide standard and curriculum. In order to succeed in school, a student must accept everything the teacher or textbook says as absolute truth. This system fails to acknowledge the validity of the students' individual thoughts.
Standardized testing forces every student to conform to the ideas of the rest of society. AP tests, the SAT, and the ACT judge people's intelligence on an inaccurate country-wide standard and are a large determining factor in a student’s college application. Standardized tests can't account for individuality and different perceptions of the world. In subjects like math and grammar, there are definitive correct answers because there are certain rules everyone must follow. However, in English and literature, each student could interpret an article differently, and no singular opinion is any more intuitive or intellectual than the others. Multiple choice questions can't accurately judge someone's interpretation of a passage when many answers are plausible. The critical reading portion of the SAT and English AP tests tend to be extremely open-ended, with several completely feasible answers, none of them more correct than another. It’s up to the student to guess which answer College Board haphazardly decided was correct. Our experiences change our perception of the world, leading each individual to have their own unique interpretation of literature, which these tests fail to account for. Standardized testing teaches us to conform to the one "correct" pathway of thinking.
What this society needs to progress and improve is originality, imagination, and curiosity. People who challenge authority, break the rules, and speak their minds are the ones who make change happen. School not only inhibits creativity, but it initiates the deterioration of individual thought. A school system that encourages artistic pursuits and adapts the classroom to individual learning styles would foster a more innovative and revolutionary future generation.