Why our creativity is limited (Part 1)

First, conformity plays an indispensable role in impeding people’s creativity. Raised up in typical Asian families, children are taught to be competitive, good students. They have to be at the top in class, winning competitions after competitions, playing thousands of instruments such as piano or violin, and become teachers’ pets. The motivation that keeps them working hard is the reward of pride. So, what is wrong here? Students conform, trying to fit in the rest of everyone else. They do not want to look like “losers” or unsuccessful ones. They want to achieve the same things as their friends and classmates do. When people identify one thing as a popular trend, the individual would hardly go against the crowd. For example, the popular gifted or honor classes that most Vietnamese want to take are Math, Science, and English. Typical Asians believe that studying Science, Math, and English defines a smart and successful person. However, not all people have the ability to excel in Math, Science, or English. Playing instruments, on the other hand, represents the nobility of a person in the future. Parents and students conform to the crowd, wanting to be like everyone else or even better. A potentially artist student, who is not good at Math, Science, English or any talents that the school values, is very likely to reject his artistic traits and conform to his friends and environment. He would also carry his backpack to extra classes, joining competition teams, trying to get into gifted schools or honor classes such as Math. He may perform well in any of those goals; however, he will not excel. Or a girl who does not like piano but involuntarily learn piano in order to perform for guests every time they visit her house to please her parents. Because of conformity, she and her parents still continue to pay the money for piano classes. There is nothing wrong with that; however, there is a big problem. To elaborate on this, we move on to the second point.

Second, hardworking contributes the individual’s goals, but they are not his/her intrinsic goals. According to the article published on the New York Times, “How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off” by Adam Grant, a distinguished professor at the Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania, he says practice makes perfect, but IT DOESN’T MAKE NEW. True, playing piano is not that hard as long as you practice. Soon, people could figure out that they could play any song, and so does everyone. The more you do old practices for Math tests, the more you recognize that the test questions appear using the same ways of thinking paths. Therefore, winning the competitions partly depends on whether you do enough practice and have enough luck to get the same questions you have already solved. Therefore, some people seem very good at one field, but it does not mean that they are passionate about it; sadly, without passion, they can not make breakthroughs. For teachers, they may not have passion for or expertise in the curriculum that they are teaching. However, they have been teaching the same materials for years; therefore, they could achieve the goal of conveying what textbooks say, but they could never go beyond that without true passion. For children, they are not good at what parents, teachers, or society expect, but unfortunately, they are “good enough” to please everyone. They can play a lot of difficult pieces of Mozart, Bach, and famous piano pieces. They are in the Math, Science teams for excellent students and win regional prizes. Teachers would find them as their favorite students who are obedient, perfectly normal, and most of all are able to achieve high grades. After all, how to achieve good grades? Study! If students know their teachers’ test-writing style, they would be likely to have desirable grades. Generally, they could achieve the goals because they spend a lot of time practicing and working hard. Pride, fame, and so on would be their rewards for meeting the expectations. A clichéd quote that advocates this point is “fakes it till you make it”. “Make it” is the goal. People could achieve the goal, such as playing this difficult piece even though they do not like piano, but they could not exceed or create creativity in the piano field. Therefore, creativity is hindered because children are not enthusiastic about what they are doing. They tend to target goals that they are not passionate about because of conformity, and because “everyone else does”; eventually, they will fool themselves that they are good at it and they like it.

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