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December 14, 2018

How to look at art: Do parents kill their children's creativity?

Mary Nyambura, 14, Flying Kites School, South Kinangop
Mary Nyambura, 14, Flying Kites School, South Kinangop

Creativity is a higher form of intelligence, said Edward De Bono. A ‘master programme’ of the mind, it is ‘more important than knowledge’ said Albert Einstein. Creativity - the outside-box problem solving skill - is visual thinking. It is deeply rooted in the ability to observe, and to form, select and process mental images. Art practice advances visual thinking. Practising art is key to intelligence.

There are people who recognise art and those who marginalise it. Eight percent of people attend up to 45% of all theatre, music concerts, art exhibitions, and access art education. For those, art is a marker of normality. For those who do not recognise the values of art, art consumption is low. They find art little or no relevance to their lives, elitists or even off-putting. These people represent all social groups, not only lower classes.

Where do you stand on art, or more importantly - what do you wish for your children?

Many Kenyan parents attended the Award Ceremony of the MASK Prize creativity competition for young Africans in Nairobi recently. As the children came to the stage to receive their prizes, their parents came with them. ‘We support our children’s creativity’, they said, ‘Because art helps them to advance in school work and life’. Their passion for art was encouraging!

A world’s leading education specialist Ken Robinson said ‘schools kill creativity’. Listen to his famous TED talk, Most education systems today are based on models put in place over a century ago turning out young people unprepared for the rapidly changing work and life environment of the 21st century.

Schools kill creativity. But many parents often do a better job when it comes to stifling creativity of children. Many of us fail to encourage — or even actively discourage — our children from participating in the arts, believing that art makes them ‘idle’, or out of concern for financial security, the fear they will become ‘impoverished’ artists.

I would like to reassure those parents. Practising art makes children more intelligent and better leaders. In fact, 4 times better at academic achievements, and 3 times better at leadership. Art teaches us how to think not what to think. By breaking old thinking patterns, art helps children to attain a richer synthesis of thoughts. Creative young people are more employable. Creativity is now a top skill companies seek in employees. Academic qualifications are no longer enough.

Practising art does not make children idle or lazy. Being a creative thinker demands focus, discipline and structure. Young people involved in the arts are more resilient, persistent, confident, and motivated with positive work ethics. Doing art in school will not turn them into artists. How many of us became mathematicians for studying maths at school, writers for studying languages, or athletes for doing PE? School art education is not a vocational training. Those who will become professional artists will certainly have a higher quality of life whatever their income will be.

Uncreative, your children become ‘the illiterate of the 21st century’ badly equipped to survive or succeed. “Survival in the 21st century will be very difficult and without creativity it is not possible,” said African leading industrialist Manu Chandaria.

Make ‘art for creativity’ a major part of your children’s education. Speak to your fellow parents tomorrow. Join forces and hire an experimental artist to give your children weekly after-school creativity workshops. 

Go to MASK Publications on to learn about creativity and become creativity champion.

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