Didn’t get the ax yet from AsianWeek, so I was asked to write a piece related to religion and education. I was stumped for a while, but when I found this older TED presentation by Sir Ken Robinson, I found my angle.
The original article is here, so please comment there and support AsianWeek. So here goes…
At the 2006 TED Conference, Sir Ken Robinson recounted this story: “A little girl was in a drawing lesson, she was six [years old], and she was in the back drawing. The teacher said that this little girl hardly ever paid attention, but at this drawing lesson she did. The teacher was fascinated and went over to her and she said, ‘What are you drawing?’ The girl said, ‘I’m drawing a picture of God.’ The teacher said, ‘But nobody knows what God looks like.’ The girl said, ‘They will in a minute.’”
Children are bold, especially when it comes to topics like art and God. But Robinson’s larger point was that children are largely educated out of creativity because the educational system stigmatizes mistakes and eschews imagination for certitude. By the time we become adults, we rarely think of ourselves as creative at all. And if Robinson is correct, then Asian Americans could arguably be the most educated and least imaginative of all.
Per Robinson, the current state of education may begin holistically but progressively focuses “on the head, and then just to one side.” For Asians, we’re good with that one side of our heads. Our sensibilities are pragmatic and calculating. We like certitude. Many of us have careers that depend on our ability to perform and minimize risk. We made good on our education.
Does this correlate to a lack of imagination and creativity in Asian Americans? Maybe. Perhaps we don’t care as long as we have the economic security that comes with education. After all, the modern system of education was geared for the needs of industrialism. And with globalization making the world a smaller place, the gears of economics and technology seem to demand quality labor inputs like us – we who may not be able to imagine the world any differently.
This may be where drawing pictures of God might be helpful. Because what seems like an impractical and unprofitable act reveals boldness that we as Asian Americans generally lack. Nothing new comes from the fear of making mistakes. And if that is the way we have been educated, perhaps we should question the system as well as our adherence to it.
Education should begin and end with a sense of wonder, if it should end at all. We should be more concerned with possibilities than probabilities because creativity isn’t merely a marketing tool or survival mechanism. Rather, it touches the profound, mysterious space between divinity and humanity. Along with mathematics, we should have classes on dance, cooking and theology, so that all of our resources – physical, mental, spiritual – can acknowledge the things in life we can control as well as the other things that we have no idea about, such as why we are here, how we love and what dreams may come. In essence, we should all try to draw God, not because we’ll get it right, but because not drawing at all is terribly wrong.