Educated out of Creativity. Where are they now?
Do you remember that fella from art class who did the best paintings and sketches? He was so good, his Japanese-styled animations should have been featured on TV, and everybody just knew he’d become some famous artist. Or how about the girl who showed off in clothing and textiles class because she could consistently make couture outfits from bits of cloth, and bragged to everyone that she was going to be a fashion designer? What happened to the girl, the writer, who knew the meaning of practically all the words in the dictionary, and was always at the top of the class when it came to essays?
Most of them, (and I’m sure some of you can associate with this) are where most of us end up, in an eight to four, wearing a tailored business suit or a striped tie, and not exactly miserable, but no way near satisfied.
During childhood, people believe that they can do anything – that their dreams and aspirations are completely attainable. A young girl will twirl around in her leotards confident in the thought that she’ll be the world’s greatest dancer. In Trinidad though, that phase usually ends when primary school does. It’s time for ‘big school’ after that, and the transition into adulthood and responsibilities begin. This is the time when dreams can be confronted with the harshness of reality; and in that battle, reality usually puts up a stronger fight. Instead of hearing stories of success, we are bombarded with tales of failure. Instead of believing in our skills, we are told that we aren’t special enough to make our dreams come through.
Career goals are drilled into most children’s minds, and demonstrated in their everyday lives so much so that from early childhood every child hears the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Having a career goal is instilled in kids from the moments they start forming sentences. When they are at a young age, some children are told, “You can be anything you want to be”. Others hear their parents foretell, “My son is going to be a doctor or a lawyer?” The fact is that we all know that being a child won’t last forever, and eventually we will all need to ‘be’ something.
In the early teen years, children may exhibit special skills or specific talents. Some may excel in sports or the arts; some may be especially crafty with their hands. Others may be politically motivated or have naturally sharp business acumen. Once exposed to a variety of subjects, almost every child has a favourite or a particular skill that they enjoy more than any other, and usually shine in this area.
“Between parents and the school system, some people’s dreams and talents don’t stand a chance”
Between parents and the school system, some people’s dreams and talents don’t stand a chance. In Trinidad and Tobago, the educational programmes in most schools are tailored towards academics. Classes like art, cooking, woodwork, and sewing are usually dropped in favour of business courses by Form Four. Why is Math and English the only compulsory subjects at O’ Levels? This suggests to me that these two subjects are more important than all others. The implication is that some courses are more acceptable than others. However, there are many people who simply aren’t interested in focusing most of their attention on these areas. Boys who want to become craftsmen or contractors or architects are sometimes pressured by their parents to pursue other areas. It’s my belief that all children should be exposed to a well-rounded education and that each subject area should be given equal attention. This is not usually the case. Let’s face it, there were some classes we were alert and serious for. Art, music, and clothing and textiles classes were usually for liming. The option of doing Physical Education wasn’t even available at my secondary school despite the fact that there is a wide range of career paths in that field. At very few, if any career fairs, would you see the art booth or the clothing designer giving an encouraging lecture. Business professionals, the police, army officials, teachers, lawyers, and doctors are the ones who are most seen. There is nothing wrong with these fields; what’s wrong is the glaring absence of the arts.
“Children are basically taught that there are certain paths in life that are safer, and more stable, and despite the fact that their talent may be impressive they tend to give in”
Children are basically taught that there are certain paths in life that are safer, and more stable, and despite the fact that their talent may be impressive they tend to give in, thereby giving up. Instead of being taught to attempt and learn from mistakes, the education system teaches them to avoid the chance of failing, and to avoid taking risks. Most kids then have to deal with the additional pressure from their parents when it comes to career choices, with some parents even choosing which subjects their children opt for at for O’ Levels in attempts to guide and shape their career choices. What we have then, is the aspiring musician, packing up his violin because ‘it’s so hard to get into the industry’. The artist then discontinues his passion in favour of entering the saturated field of business. The writer becomes discouraged by parents, or by friends and when he or she is told to be realistic and choose a stable career path, he or she settles for a desk job (when it’s not that there’s anything wrong with a desk job, but it’s not what they truly want). Such people settle for becoming an interchangeable part of something else when all they yearned to do was make it on their own.
“When did chasing our dreams become a taboo topic?”
When did chasing our dreams become a taboo topic? In life we find that stability is important and greatly sought after. We as a society tend to look at some career paths as riskier than others; for instance, a business field would be relatively easy to get into. There are always jobs for business professionals. New companies are opening their doors and they need accountants, marketing professionals and operations staff. These are jobs that are relatively in demand and more stable. You don’t usually see an ad in the classifieds for a singer or an actress. Choosing to make your living through more creative ventures just isn’t very stable, unless you’re one of the super creative, gifted few. The question here is who decides whether or not you are good enough. Do you retain your drive to pursue your own path, or are do you accept the miseducation that pushes you away from embracing your true creative potential?