With each passing year I see more clearly the importance of creativity in human life. I have become convinced that it is an integral part of our personality and functioning. Every person is born creative. And yet I have been surprised to note how, in practice, these issues are ignored by the education system and how little of what goes on at school, despite its focus on forming the young person in the modern world, is focused on the development of creativity. I speak mainly about the education situation in Poland, but I think that what I write applies to many other places on Earth.
I work at several universities in Poland, helping to train music therapists. The process of becoming a music therapist is like that of gaining maturity, in which the school (at each stage) and the gaining of experience are very important. From an early age young people spend a large part of their life at school. Certainly, this must affect the formation of their personality. The problem lies in the fact that this effect is not always a positive one. Schools often do not educate: instead they conduct a kind of "dressage" in which there is little room for the individual consideration of each participant in the educational process. What matters above all is that the student meets the standards set centrally.
I think that schools misunderstand what it means to "teach." Too much attention has been given to the transmission of knowledge rather than to its "development" and shaping. The combination of this with a desire for perfection constitutes a dangerous mix. People cease to live their own lives, instead beginning to implement schemes imposed by the world around them. People give up thinking for themselves and start to act as others expect them to, following the crowd. They begin to lose their creativity, fearing that their own ideas and intuition simply increase the risk of error: making mistakes is not welcome in school and is not treated as an integral part of the development process. Students stop trusting in themselves and start believing in schemes. Instead of looking for creative ways to solve problems, they start considering only those solutions which they have been taught. It is difficult to be creative if you cannot trust yourself and your own intuition.
Music schools, which produce the majority of future music therapists, are at the same time even more special in that they are primarily focused on "producing" artists. The consequences of such an approach to education are often to be found amongst those who wish to train as music therapists. Their years spent at school have prepared them to be a soloist, an artist, a performer, but not a creator. Such schools have a problem with "teaching", developing creativity and creative thinking. They prepare great artists and performers, who can play advanced, technically demanding pieces, but - stripped of the sheet music - have difficulty improvising an accompaniment to simple songs...
How many readers recognise from personal experience what I am writing about? This system of education leads to the development of egocentricity and competition with others. Being a music therapist requires exactly the opposite traits, so I think that one of the hardest things to be done in the transformation of musicians to music therapists is the transformation of the egocentrism of the musician into the altruism of the music therapist: in other words, changing the orientation of the focus on oneself into thinking about the good of the other person with whom we work.
But the question of creativity does not arise in music therapy only in relation to the therapist. When we consider our adult clients, many of them seem to have problems connected with creativity. In recent years, more and more of the adults who come to my office have neurotic problems and suffer from fear. They can only function within schemes which give them a false and temporary sense of security. They suppress their creativity and try to avoid change, fearing that they will make a mistake. Thus the striving for perfection imprinted in their upbringing and education takes its toll...
Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins, creators of creative music therapy, recognized many years ago the potential that lies within each of us. And the problems and misunderstandings that they initially encountered in the special education arena are further testimony to the fact that an open mind, ready for new experiences, and creativity are all you need.
I think that the most important thing we should all care about is the entire system of education for young people. We must talk loudly about the importance of education which treats each person subjectively, and where development does not just mean acquiring more and more knowledge. Education cannot be treated as memory training. Education must be based on the development of human potential, on the use of people’s resources to strengthen their psyche. And this cannot be done without reference to creativity.
Stachyra, Krzystof (2012). Creativity - Education – Therapy Creativity - Education – Therapy. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved May 17, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2012-creativity-education-therapy