Tradition. They’ve always done it that way. So it must work, right?
What am I talking about?
Our education system hasn’t changed much in 200 years, and people like Sir Ken Robinson talk about an impending revolution in what and how schools teach. What I’ve realized is that I harbor serious doubts that higher education is able to identify and reward one trait of successful people: creativity.
Today I reviewed 15 applications for a web developer, and the one that stood out was the only person who didn’t go to college, the one who chose to write his GPA on the CV when others with better grades didn’t. He proudly proclaimed he was a C- student in high school.
And strangely, though I am a professor and university lecturer, I was intrigued by this.
As I read further, I saw that his portfolio was more creative than all the rest. His websites were elegant, simple, artistic, and out-of-the-box. His chosen projects were things he seemed passionate about. I instantly called him up for an interview.
In person he was the same: Driven, creative, inquisitive, a natural debater, and best of all, a sponge for programming knowledge. He was an artist and aspiring architect before “life deprived him of opportunities” and he switched to IT skills to pay the bills. He taught himself what education didn’t provide, and that drive to learn makes him better. I’m looking forward to start working with him tomorrow.
Implicit in my excitement to hire him was a belief that a C- public school student might actually be a real genius. I’m harboring a latent belief that the education system stifles creative thinking so much that the real creatives must be earning mediocre grades. In this case I was right. But I hope I’m wrong about this in general.
You know who else was a C- student?
Jim Henson. And despite education not finding a way to use his talents, Sesame Street educates more young people than universities worldwide. There’s no contest. Creative learning has a future. Inflexible institutions of learning do not.