University students deserve better from education than a creative vacuum

Universities need a better relationship with creativity.

Undergraduate learning is an exhausting cycle—go to class, read the textbook, memorize the facts, then regurgitate those facts onto your exam pages. Unfortunately, learning anything using this tried-and-true method comes at the expense of our creativity.

Simply put, the academic experience is dull. It provides too few opportunities for the kind of outside-the-box thinking that leads to great art and innovation.

The competitive nature of academics is holding students back. For whatever reason, academia keeps insisting percentage scores on standardized tests are a better measure of a student’s capabilities than creative application of their knowledge and learned skills.

Multiple choice exams are just memory tests—their sole purpose is to gatekeep the next rung on the academic ladder. Students are given no headroom to think creatively when they’re competing for higher standing in a game devoid of imagination.

Academia in its current form just doesn’t emulate real life. University is supposed to prepare us for the working world, a place which requires creative thinking.

If I needed an operation, I’d rather have a knowledgeable surgeon whose problem-solving skills have been rigorously tested than a walking encyclopedia of facts and definitions. Unfortunately, the latter is often the finished product of a university education.

The laziness involved in how courses are taught and designed also contributes to the lack of creative thinking and evaluation in academics.

It’s easier to turn textbook practice questions into an exam than it is to invent a complex assignment designed to test students’ learning. It’s also much easier and less time-consuming to mark a hundred scantrons than a hundred creative submissions.

While there are some courses offered on campus centering on creativity, they’re mostly electives offered to upper-year students as they finish up their degrees.

Given the price of tuition, students across all disciplines deserve to have their skills tested in more interesting ways than stale multiple-choice exams. We pay for a university education to be taught and tested by experts, not to recite Google-searchable information.

Challenge me. Force me to think bigger.

I’m sick of memorizing flashcards I’m going to forget when the course ends—I want to be encouraged to get creative. Stale tests and repetitive papers shouldn’t be the only ways in which students can demonstrate their knowledge.

To everyone who says, “Be creative on your own time,” I’d encourage you to think about things differently. University time is our time—we chose to be here. We’re all entitled to the best our money can buy, and I believe creativity should be part of that.

It’s time to think outside this box.

Knowledge and creativity can intersect—that’s what university should be all about.

Ben is a fourth-year psychology student and The Journal’s Senior Arts Editor.

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