Sunday, December 03, 2006

Educating creativity out of kids

Gareth Morgan was notable before he became tagged as father of Sam Morgan, creator of TradeMe, the biggest hit on the web by a New Zealand company (so far as I am aware). He is an iconoclast, and an economist famous for his direct manner. Quite possibly he is the 'one handed' economist that U.S. President Harry Truman longed for - on that did not leaven their advice with "…but on the other hand…"

Morgan senior wrote an interesting article, published on his web site that discusses the sale of TradeMe earlier this year from the perspective of commercial creativity and education, two of my hobby horses.

Morgan says "From the perspective of the ‘creative destruction’ that is the essence of a vibrant, productive economy this is extremely encouraging for the prospects of the New Zealand economy. It sends a message one hopes, to the innovative, creative, and independent amongst our youth – that On-line technology provides a platform upon which they can create value for this economy and themselves without having to go abroad."

"The second theme relevant to the Trade Me transaction is obviously the age of those involved. The message parents and their young people might choose to take from this is that creativity – whether in Academia, the Arts, Technology, or the Trades – is one of the most precious attributes a person can possess."

" We have to be careful not to impose too much of our paradigm on the next generation. It’s clear for instance that schools are a necessary evil – convenient baby-sitting facilities that have an awful tendency to smother the curiosity of the child – the first conditioning on the conveyor belt to becoming corporate journeyman. By necessity, classrooms require strict compliance by children and that straitjacket comes with strings attached. The child’s creativity may be asphyxiated as a result.

The strength of an economy is its human capital. The commercial world needs creatives as much as it needs functionaries. Of course some functionaries, having been in Drones-ville where paid work is purely attended to procure wages, may eventually rediscover their creativity outside working hours. Good for them but pretty sad it was choked off in the first place.

As parents we have a responsibility to provide an environment enabling a child free choice to reach their potential in a manner that maximises their personal happiness. There is a whole body of economic literature now that links happiness and creativity to national productivity. People working primarily for the enjoyment creativity brings, rather than remuneration, is central to that theory. This is the story of Trade Me as much as it is for the successes we see in the Arts and in the Trades – a happy plumber is a productive plumber."


I suggest you read his article in full, whether you are a fledgling Internet entrepreneur, a parent or a plumber.

And, on the subject of creativity and education, there is a wonderful speech by Sir Ken Robinson, an English academic who now works for the Getty Foundation in the U.S. Robinson talks about the need to rethink our education system to encourage creativity in children. Like Gareth Morgan, Robinson has a clear point of view. He expresses it with wit and humour, but the underlying themes are serious and worthy of consideration.



What do you think?

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