Ghosting Imagination

Ken Robinson, in his TED talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” makes a crucial distinction between children and adults, highlighting the effects of education on creativity. Robinson claims that children, more than adults, have an expansive imagination and are able to express themselves in more creative ways (Robinson). As we grow, we lose some of our imagination and therefore creativity, fearing failure and filtering out the chances we could be taking because they seem like too much of a risk. Robinson tells the story of a child in a nativity play declaring, “Frank sent this” instead of “frankincense” as example of this creative courage. The child, was obviously wrong, but he took a risk and used his imagination, and this is something that we start to lose as we grow up.

My four-year-old cousin, Arlo, is one of the most creative people I’ve ever met. He sings every day, “plays” guitar, and bangs around on his mini drum set. Every time we’re out and hear music playing, he’ll stop to dance. He loves to draw and build sculptures out of Legos, and he has all of the Star Wars series memorized. His father is a very creative person, as well (a music journalist), but even so, I fear that Arlo will grow out of his uninhibited artistic expression. I’m sure a year from now, he’ll be too embarrassed to dance in public, and a few years later, he’ll be afraid to sing.

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Children, undoubtedly are imaginative and open-minded creatures. But just how far that open-mindedness extends is way beyond what we can scientifically understand. Studies have shown that children are more likely to claim they’ve seen ghosts than adults. Expanded creativity means expanded sensibility, and as children grow up, their brains subconsciously filter out images that are not “logical.” Is this process not the same as creating a piece of artwork out of thin air? Creating art is an illogical pursuit as well. Athena A. Drewes, in “Testing Children for Paranormal Activities,” explains that “[Children] have not yet accepted their cultural concepts of what is possible or impossible. They are not negatively conditioned about psychic phenomena, and especially when younger, have a less structured and limited concept of time, space, and force” (Athena A. Drewes). Children are even more susceptible to ESP, just like they are to creativity.

So how are we conditioned as young people to ignore and fear our creative sensibilities? Valerie Strauss, a reporter for the Washington Post writes: “…our children are not spending their formative years honing this crucial skill. They are spending thousands of hours practicing math, science, history and other core subjects in the hopes of getting into excellent universities and gaining a highly coveted degree” (Strauss). Students are taught through horse blinders, looking only in the direction of college and a career, and are constantly reminded of the risks of pursuing art (Ken Robinson). This instills a constant fear of failure in young adults that was previously absent as courageous children.


Choreographer/dancer Gillian Lynne. Courtesy of @Gillian_Lynne

Ken Robinson used Gillian Lynne (once diagnosed with a learning disorder because of her inability to sit still), who went on to become a successful ballerina and dance choreographer, as an example of recognized and fostered creativity capability. Nowadays, children are diagnosed with a plethora of learning disabilities like ADHD and ADD, and oftentimes medicated for them, without even a second thought that maybe children learn in a dynamic range of ways. Robinson explained that some children, perhaps, “need to move to think” (Robinson).

Strauss postulates, “So, what if our young people spent thousands of hours as they grew up honing their creativity through participating in performing and visual arts programs?… They would be prepared for whatever life threw at them, whether it was a career in the arts or business or something else” (Strauss). The current educational system—revolving around logical studies like math and science—only prepares students for a limited range of career options (computer programming, engineering, work in medicine, etc.), because society values them over creative fields. This type of education lacks the creative components crucial in any career, though. Children own all of these traits necessary in the job market: confidence, fearlessness, imagination, and a diligent workflow. As young artists, we need to stop allowing educators (including our own parents) to discourage us from having vibrant imaginations and creative brains—otherwise, we will never be able to imagine anything artistic into being, let alone see a ghost.

Works Cited

Drewes, Athena A. “Extrasensory Perception: Research Findings.” Advances in Parapsychological Research, 1997, pp. 211-220. McFarland & Co.,

Robinson, Ken. “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” TED. TED 2006, 15 Feb. 2018, Monterey, California,

Strauss, Valerie. “Why We Love Artists but Not Arts Education.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 29 Jan. 2013,


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