In a story recounted by Sir Ken Robinson, when his son was four years old, he took part in a school play about the Nativity, where he played Joseph. In this Bible story, the three Kings come to present gifts to the newly born Jesus. One brings gold, the other brings myrrh and the other brings frankincense.

As kids tend to do, the budding actors got caught up a little in the excitement of the play and confused their cues when presenting their gifts. The first King marched up to Joseph and Jesus and put his box down on the floor. “I bring you gold.” The second King did the same. “I bring you myrrh.” The third King walked up to Jesus and very regally put his gift on the ground. “Frank sends this.”

Now, aren’t kids just awesome?

Have you ever noticed how unafraid we are to go out on a limb and make mistakes when we’re young? Kids are willing to take a chance. They’re not afraid of looking foolish or being wrong. As Sir Ken Robinson very succinctly put it, “if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” Unfortunately, as we grow up, we lose our innate capacity for daring to take a chance. The fear of making mistakes is something that’s hammered into us all through our lives. Pride and embarrassment become two very limiting factors in our interactions with others. They’re such powerful forces that they shape our most important decisions, our livelihood and indeed, the person we turn out to be.


The Danger Signs

It’s a pretty sobering thought if you stop and think about it. Even our national education systems are built around this principle. It’s drilled into the very foundation of our formative education since childhood that mistakes are the worst things you can make. They are to be avoided at all costs, and so the result is that our education systems are robbing children of all their creativity. It’s even apparent in business structures. Mistakes are stigmatised and punished. So no one’s willing to go out on a limb and do something creative. Picasso once said, “All children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist while you’re growing up.”

Don’t waste time. You’re never going to me make it.

The whole education system is built on the premise of promoting what is termed as academic ability, and this is because the public education system was created and built around the needs of industrialism at the beginning of the 19th century. That means that the most important subjects in the system were the ones that were most likely to get you a job at the time. The whole system is basically a process designed simply to get people into university. That’s it.


“Don’t study dance because you can never be a ballerina.”

“Don’t take too much of an interest in sports because you can never be an athlete.”

Sounds familiar? The consequences of this is that a lot of highly creative, imaginative people are forced to believe that they are incapable, because what they were really good at was ignored or indeed, actually stigmatised when they were in school. And this is something that quite frankly needs to be addressed right now. The system has changed. And the system as is right now is failing us.