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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Never kill Peter Pan

Published: January 31, 2013
Section: Opinions

If anyone is a fan of TED talks and education, they have probably watched the TED Talk by Ken Robinson about how creativity is being sucked out of our classrooms at an alarming rate and having a detrimental effect on students. After re-watching this video in one of many endeavors to procrastinate, I became inspired, yet again, by Robinson’s lofty ideals about restoring creativity and imagination in the minds of our youth.

While a sense of imagination is something that every person is born with, it is also something that continually is pushed to the wayside both during school hours and afterward. We are taught to boil creativity to a checklist. The process of learning to write the perfect essay starts in elementary school and ends only when your time in school comes to a close and you heave a sigh of relief that you will never again have to check off each paragraph, or struggle for a last hundred words. During this time, through the adoption of various writing tactics, mind numbing math problems, and too little arts and music programs, little by little our imagination is forced to take a backseat to the pragmatism preached in school. While there is nothing wrong with being realistic and learning these writing habits – in fact, discipline can be necessary to creativity, if used in tandem­ – so too should our schools and ourselves be committed to upholding and strengthening our imaginations.

Yet as we grow older, explore new ideas, develop new opinions, and broaden our horizons, things that should make our minds more agile, not less, our imagination are relegated to a small corner of our brain. Too often we are taught to think critically, to analyze problems, create solutions, to think “out of the box” but in order to do so we have to be able to enlist our imagination to help create these solutions. After teaching us to eschew wild joy for responsibility, we must instill the same wild joy into our work. But, we run the risk of becoming so rusty in jubilance that the ability will entirely disappear.

Just like your quads, your penmanship and your a second language, your imagination is something that needs to be exercised and routinely engaged. Unless we are immediately talented at a creative process, we feel we have to abandon it for more productive pursuit. But any intelligent person will know that what they are making isn’t very good, and our lack of imagination leads us to give up, rather than day dream about how one day, maybe, our endeavors will be good. Imagination is a kind of hope, and if we don’t practice hope, there won’t be any.

How can we be expected to think outside the box or write well when we only have tactics in front of us and not a dearth of images and faux experiences, or real experiences, conjured up in our heads?

We never have time to daydream anymore, or do wild things. Spacing out in class results in the loss of potentially important notes or being called out by your teachers. If we do, it’s fantasizing about hours of sleep, and the feeling of your face against a pillow at two in the afternoon. Even on our break, we fill hours with trivial business, watching TV or playing videogames, constantly spoonfed stimulation. Eventually, out of necessity and out of habit, we forget how to create our own entertainment. We’re always too busy to front of a notebook, daydream, imagine and escape our own lives for a while.

Not knowing how to escape can have more dire consequences. When we can’t escape momentarily, we do it by periodic break downs and binges. The entire has taught us that being imaginative is childish, and that Peter Pan is a dirty slacker, but everyone needs downtime to function well during the other 90 percent of the day.

Many weeks ago, I wrote about how the demands of college don’t allow students to pleasure read and what a shame that is. Reading for fun and daydreaming are two sides of the same coin. In a day and age where stress holds your hand as your go to and from your daily classes, activities, life taking a few moments to drift away into your subconscious and explore your own mind.

Most people can’t remember our dreams that happen while we sleep, while our body takes refuge from the toils of life. But the images our sub consciousness creates don’t just shut off once the sun comes up. Each of us is endowed with an imagination that is just waiting for you to explore it. Like a positive Pandora’s box, we all have the option to open it and harness what lies inside.