The antidote to problems with the established social order is creativity. The ability to imagine the world we live in a completely new way is what we need to fuel positive change. That is why creativity and the powerful ability to think critically is systematically being bleached out of our education system and, if the international elite has their way, the world.
“Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League,” an article by former Yale Professor William Deresiewicz, caused a great stir by identifying some of the problems with how some institutions of higher education stifle creativity. The work was published shortly before the release of his expository book, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and The Way to a Meaningful Life. The book had a major impact on discourse about higher education, sparking a great deal of debate.
In the article, which bears the subtitle “The nation’s top colleges are turning our kids into zombies,” Deresiewicz states how students who are applying to the Ivy Leagues and other elite universities are placed into fierce competitions where their entire childhoods become marathons. This pursuit of socially-conditioned achievement begins at a young age. Children become consumed with a race where they spend their time acquiring particular credentials while vying for a finite number of spots in the most prestigious schools which offer them the best “investment” on a road to wealth, privilege, and achievement. He says that this process has caused these adolescents to be deeply risk-averse, not wanting to spoil their chances for greater achievement. Many of these young people have known nothing but success, building failure up to be a monster that they never know.
Failure becomes a Monster
The monster that failure becomes, in their minds, guards the gate to their passion for deeper inquiry into the unknown, forcing them to stick with the knowledge that is safely provided by the establishment. They are perfect candidates for an education where they must regurgitate the information learned. But their ability to be creative suffers because the incentive is to follow a pre-programmed path. Although schools boast of developing analytical and critical thinking, they often train their students with the “analytic and rhetorical skills necessary for success in business and the professions. Everything is technocratic—the development of expertise—and everything is ultimately justified in technocratic terms.”
The stifling of creativity is not only happening in higher education but the public sphere as well. Rather than seeking creative solutions to the problems which face us today, we retreat from serious change. This resistance to creative reconception is exemplified by the handling of the financial crisis of 2008 when banks and automakers were bailed out in order to remain solvent. There was never a serious restructuring of the corrupt system that created the problem; the government simply added money to the system with the hope of restoring confidence in the free market.
The US Political Discourse Suffers from a Lack of Creativity
U.S. politics, moreover, has been rigidly adhering to a constitution written 300 years ago, which in many ways does not translate to today’s problems. A classic example that fuels one of the most heated debates of today is the Second Amendment, which ensures the right to “bear arms.” However, no one in the 18th century could have predicted the sophistication of modern weapons. No civilian should legally possess a grenade-launcher or an automatic machine gun. Similarly, Christianity adheres to a text written two thousand years ago, governing social institutions such as marriage, which obviously has a much different place in our modern world.
The lack of creativity is built into the institutions that form our society and most importantly it is fostered in our education system, ensuring that future generations are complicit in maintaining the world order that allows the Man to maintain control. The inability to consider a new way stifles one of the most important and potentially positive characteristics of humanity: ingenuity. Human ingenuity has been used to solve some of our greatest problems through invention and development. We have made our lives easier in many ways and boosted our quality of life across the globe.
Creative Breakthroughs make a Brighter Future
The marvels of the printing press and later the internet have transformed our lives and enriched them in numerous ways. These creative breakthroughs were seen as obvious threats to power throughout their histories and as a result, the wealthy elite has tried to control them through censorship. A creative approach looks beyond the established methods of solving new problems, making more solutions possible.
Grave problems such as mass starvation, horrific diseases, and the diminishing of vital resources face the world today. Solving these problems demands a greater level of ingenuity. Many of these issues will not be solved if we continue with the same approach of deferring current knowledge.
When thinking about how to fight the power, creativity is one of the most important weapons. We need creative solutions that will come from reimagining the way we approach life itself. We must acknowledge the potential we have with all of the materials that comprise the Earth and start rethinking how we use them. We can each begin by daring to think differently without the fear of failure or being ostracized. A brighter future begins with creativity; let’s start today.
William Deresiewicz, “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League: The nation’s top colleges are turning our kids into zombies,” The New Republic, July 21, 2014. Accessed on 10/26/2014.