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Too Scared to be Creative?

I am always astounded at the ease with which children come forward to show a creative work they have done. Be it a drawing or a poem, they are happy to show their masterpiece to any curious individual. Their enthusiasm is not dampened even by those who are not as willing.

If an adult is asked to draw a picture and share it, there is a 99 per cent possibility that they would reply with a resounding ‘no’. Even the one per cent of people who would be brave enough to come forward with their drawings, would do so with a lot of shrugging, awkward laughs, followed by an apology. We fear the judgement of our peers. We are embarrassed to show our ideas to those who are around us. And this fear and embarrassment cause us to be restrained in our thinking. We might have a wild idea, but it is quickly followed by the train of thought: What would
others think of it?

When it comes to employment and studies, the values are still quite old-fashioned and orthodox in Bangladesh. As soon as students complete high school, parents often force them to go to coaching classes for medical or
engineering school. Sometimes, this is done against the child’s wishes. Even today, Bangladeshi parents, or even South Asian parents in general, look down on any profession that is not related to science, engineering or law. As a result, our society has a serious lack of individuals in the fields of art, film making, music and other creative sectors. Parents in South Asia have a tendency to measure success of their children by the number of As they score. We have to remember that we come from a third world socioeconomic setting where being a doctor or an engineer has been a guaranteed path to financial affluence. So parents look to raise well-balanced, mature and responsible young adults who succeed in the professional world. They believe high degrees in prestigious fields like science, medicine and law will help them lead comfortable lives and keep them financially stable. While the parents intend to do what is best for their children, they often tend to overlook something else their children should be working towards – being happy.

In deciding on the child’s career options by themselves, parents do not take one crucial factor in consideration, which is the child himself/herself. This is damaging not only for the child’s true abilities but also on his/her self-
motivation and work ethics. They tend to forget that each child has her own unique personality, thinking abilities and aspirations. Some children may be interested in learning math and science while some may be interested in making art and writing fiction. And both options are perfectly acceptable.

There exists this narrow-minded belief that anyone pursuing a career in the creative field is not as intelligent as someone in the technical field. They are often deemed as under-achievers. There is a popular theory that the two
halves of the human brain – the creative right side and the technical left side govern different skills and personality traits. According to a study published in the journal Plos One in August 2013 by University of Utah neurologists, this theory is absolutely false. While some brain functions occur on the right side and some on the left, the brain is not as clear-cut as the myth makes it out to be. For example, the right hemisphere is often involved in processing of languages, which is supposedly a subject of the technical left side to deal with.

Creative thinking is at the centre of the learning process. Any original idea that has value in real world is the basis of creativity. However, our present educational curriculum does not provide ample opportunities for young students to explore their creative sides. Younger classes do have extracurricular activities like art and music. However, as the child grows older, those activities are replaced by subjects like chemistry and advanced mathematics. As a result, the system does not encourage discovery, personal growth and self-realization among young people. The system is designed to generate trained adults who must achieve success in traditional methods. So there is no platform for the talented musician or the gifted sculptor in a society full of people who define success with such preconception. Creativity is not just about the arts or self-expression. It involves new ideas and critical judgements about whether you are good at what you do. That is crucial for growth in any individual. Otherwise, all the society will be getting is trained lab rats who turn off their thought process and only give the answers the society is looking for.

The world does not only need doctors and engineers. It is also in dire need of poets who make us weep with emotion, film makers who change preconceived notions about how we see the world and comedians who make us laugh. Shedding tears over poetry is therapeutic for the soul. Influential movies help us open our minds. And considering the state in which the world is right now, we could use a good laugh or two.