Creativity, School, and Social Rejection

“To live creatively is a choice. You must make a commitment to your own mind and the possibility that you will not be accepted. You have to let go of satisfying people, often even yourself.” by Jessica Olien


Are you a creative thinker who believes that you could reach your goals if only others would understand you, if only they gave you more support for your ideas?

In a must-read article in Slate, Jessica Olien argues that you may be looking for love in all the wrong places, or at least at the wrong time:

“People are biased against creative thinking, despite all of their insistence otherwise.

‘We think of creative people in a heroic manner, and we celebrate them, but the thing we celebrate is the after-effect,’  says Barry Staw…”

People who are successfully creative rarely “feel the love” while they are creating and especially not while they are young:

“Unfortunately, the place where our first creative ideas go to die is the place that should be most open to them—school. Studies show that teachers overwhelmingly discriminate against creative students, favoring their satisfier classmates who more readily follow directions and do what they’re told.”

That’s not to say that the answer is to teach creative students to play nice. In fact, according to Olien, the rejection from peers and even teachers can serve a larger purpose, strengthening our resilience and psychological self-reliance.

The challenge for creative children, of course, is helping them to survive those difficult early years before they giving up on their divergence altogether. It’s yet another good reason for homeschooling or, as this obviously creative 13 year old calls it, “hackschooling”:

Photo credit: Katherine Evans

1 thought on “Creativity, School, and Social Rejection

  1. This strikes a particular chord this morning, as my 10 year old daughter and I were just discussing school plans for next year. We’re allowed a hybrid situation here, taking classes at the public school as needed to mix up our homeschool studies. We considered art at the public school, and she – my little creative soul – immediately wrinkled her nose up and said “I don’t like the way they teach art at school.” She was recalling a time when still part-time in the elementary schools, and the traveling art teacher came to offer up her monthly classes. Stereotypically, the kids were told to paint one particular painting and were criticized if their paintings varied from the others, even slightly. “Your flowers are too small, your branch doesn’t bend just right” and similar comments. I actually observed one of these classes, and was appalled by how much her art class was like a bad TV drama heavy-handedly pointing out the flaws in our education system. It was an exercise in self-restraint, I’ll tell you.

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