A team of scientists wanted to find out where creativity comes from. Are some people born with it or is it learned? Or does it come from our experiences?
The scientists developed a highly specialized test and had 1,600 children between the ages of 4 and 5 take the test. This was a test that looks at the ability to come up with new, different, and innovative solutions to problems. A whole 98 percent of the kids scored genius category of imagination!
The scientists were so astonished that they decided to test the children again five years later when they were ten years old. The result? Only 30 percent of these children now fell in the genius category. When the kids were tested again at 15 years, the figure had dropped to a depressing 12 percent! If you are wondering what percentage of adults still have their creative imagination after years of schooling, it will interest and equally depress you to know that only 2 percent – yes two percent – of the population of grownups retained their creative abilities.
After millions of tests and examinations, the researchers came to the conclusion that the school system – our education – robs us of our natural creative ability. As kids, we were natural innovators and had powerful imaginations. Then gradually, teachers, and schools – sometimes even parents – began to strip us of our uniqueness. Then we grew into adults that have forgotten what it’s like to be creative.
This knowledge about how the school system impacts a child’s cognitive development is what Elon Musk wanted to prevent his kids. He didn’t want to risk having them lose their creative genius. So in 2014, Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, pulled his five children out of a prestigious school for gifted children and started his own school call Ad Astra – later renamed Astra Nova.
There is a growing criticism against the relevance of the school system over a child’s wholesome development. This growing crusade is justified when you consider that our education system is no longer delivering its promise of a brighter future, fulfillment and financial security. After going through boring classes, lectures and exams, you are confronted by a harsh reality that is often contrary to your orientation.
According to science, there are two kinds of thinking that take place in the brain. One is called divergent — that is imagination, used for generating new possibilities. The other is called convergent — that is when you’re making a judgment, making a decision, criticizing, or evaluating. Divergent thinking works like an accelerator and convergent thinking puts a brake on our best efforts. Sadly, the society and education system focuses on developing our convergent thinking and suppressing our divergent.
In trying to avoid this outcome for his children Musk, decided to take them out of the conventional school system and start what he believes to be what schools should be like. Here are some things about the school.
Less paperwork; more thinking
For the application of the 2021 session, instead of asking students to fill a long application form, the application required parents to upload a video of their child’s response to one of seven conundrums. These are short videos of questions derived from a possible real-life scenario. Here is an example of what the question looks like, imagine a small town by a lake, in which the majority of the town is employed by a single factory. But that factory has been polluting the lake and killing the aquatic lives. What do you do? It’s posed that shutting down the factory would mean that everyone loses their jobs. On the other hand, keeping the factory open means the lake gets destroyed.
This kind of controversial conversation allows the children to see the world in a critically important fashion. Musk explained that there aren’t any grades in the school. Instead of treating school like an assembly line, in his words “it makes much more sense to cater the education to match the students’ aptitudes and abilities.” Musk started the school for his own children, and they have since been joined by a small group of other students.
What is wrong with our education system?
Musk has been quite vocal about what he sees to be wrong with the education system in the US – and we can easily extrapolate it to most parts of the world. His concerns provide important context to some of the ideas behind the formation of Astra Nova. According to Musk, there are two main issues. These are that students are being asked to memorize information or learn formulas without explaining why doing that is important. He believes that teachers are meant to explain to kids why they are being taught a subject. The ‘why’ of things is extremely important. For example, students deserve to know why they are being asked to solve those strange math problems.
In an interview, Musk described a school without the traditional grade structure. It has the goal of introducing problem-solving methods to teach critical thinking. He explained that if you want to teach students how engines work, you wouldn’t want to first teach them about wrenches and screwdrivers. Instead, you would want to show them an engine and ask them to take it apart. “Then a very important thing happens, which is that the relevance of the tools becomes apparent”. This is a concept Musk referred to as teach to the problem, not to the tool. This is advice coming from a guy who taught himself how to build rockets from reading books.
Is Musk taking a risk on his kids’ future?
When asked how long he intends to keep his kids away from the convention school system. Musk said “may be until they are 21”. The average person may see it as a huge risk to experiment on the kids’ future. But if you think about the fact that most of the successful people today either dropped out of school or did not attend higher education, then you can only imagine how irrelevant traditional academic qualification will likely become a few decades from now.
Recently, President Trump of the United States signed an executive order to make recruiting in the White House less about academic qualification and more about individuals’ ability and skill.
The World is evolving fast and traditional school systems are barely catching up. There are alternatives to open online education. Degrees are gradually and steadily losing the attraction and prestige it once had. And this is largely due to its massive failure to deliver on its promise. It served its purpose through the industrial age. But this purpose no longer has everyone in it. A lot of people are beginning to realize that formal higher schooling is not for everyone. Education was meant to be born out of curiosity to know, learn, and grow.
Should you not go to school?
This is where the question always gets at. Do we then advise everyone not to go to school? I don’t think that is the right way to look at it. I think the important thing is to understand what you are getting yourself into or out of. Instead of going to school with the blind hope that it guarantees a brighter future; going to school is now almost like starting a business in some sense. Over 95 percent of businesses fail. So there are no guarantees. The only difference is that even with a failed business, you still get to learn real-life experience. For some people, their academic qualification is their best achievement. We have great doctors, lawyers, and engineers who are products of the school system. We have great thought leaders and thinkers who are products of the school system. But for every person who benefited from going to school, there are probably hundreds who have had to start all over to figure out what they want to do with their lives after school.
As for me, I totally agree with Elon Musk that we need to rethink schooling. And if I had my way, I’ll have my kids attend Astra Nova when they turn nine. What about you? Would you send your kids to a school like this? Do you believe our education system has failed to catch up with the times? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments below. Remember to like and share this video with someone. If you are yet to subscribe to After School TV, now is a good time to hit the subscribe button. Until next time, YOUR SUCCESS MATTERS!