Are we raising creators or copiers?

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By Sabrina Almeida

Mississauga, February 19 (CINEWS): How many of us in the South Asian community encourage our children to be creative? The answer is very few. And even those that do usually see it as a means to an end.
If your child tells you they want to go to an art or drama school, chances are you wouldn’t be very happy. Unless you have a deep love for the arts or are a successful artist yourself. For most South Asians, few professions exist beyond the realm of medicine, engineering and technology. While there is no doubt that we have established quite a reputation in these fields it has really been for breaking new ground. Also we must acknowledge that it has come at the expense of progress in all others.
With originality on the back burner, it gives the impression that Asians in general, are better at copying than creating. Perhaps that’s why most Bollywood blockbusters have often been accused of being a mishmash of previous Hollywood films. Even actor Anil Kapoor who has had the opportunity to work with both film industries has acknowledged the lack of creativity, especially in the field of television. And you can get knock offs of any product on the streets of India and China.
As I turned to the Internet for quick tips to boost a child’s creativity, I came across lists of don’ts that made me want to hide. Generations before us were guilty of doing them and we are no better. Here are ten that I believe every South Asian parent should probably read everyday to help them remember what’s at stake.
1. Don’t compare sibling’s abilities and talents
2. Don’t envy other people’s children or ask your kids to be like them
3. Don’t embarrass or shame your kids if they give wrong answers or don’t meet your expectations
4. Don’t use negative phrases like “you are wrong” or “that’s not how it is done”
5. Don’t take over your child’s project to make it “perfect”
6. Don’t expect perfection in everything
7. Don’t stop them from sharing their views or ideas
8. Don’t make them to conform to stereotypes
9. Don’t limit them to academic activities and rote learning
10. Don’t make them focus only on things that will serve a purpose
Two really stood out for me personally. ‘Don’t force them to conform to stereotypes’ and ‘don’t take over their projects’ in an attempt to perfect it. I must admit that like many other South Asian parents, I too have occasionally being guilty of doing them both.
I remember my older son’s continual complaint was that his younger brother took apart his meticulously-put-together action figures and in order to build some “nonsense”. Being a non-conformist, the younger one always wanted to create his own heroes and rarely had the patience for following blueprints. I now realize and appreciate his creativity. He has a unique perspective on life and that brings a certain freshness and originality to his thinking.
I can’t imagine him copying anything and am rather grateful for that.
The second was taking over projects in an attempt to perfect them. I remember wanting to touch up the drawings my kids did or change the language in their essays till better sense prevailed. After all the idioms we learned have little meaning today and more importantly, true genius lies in creating your own.
Perfection and predictability go hand-in-hand and both stifle creativity. Perhaps that’s why very few South Asians are known inventors. We aren’t encouraged to explore our creative side, the emphasis is always on presenting a perfect replica of what is already there. We focus on reducing errors rather than creating something new. And while each has its importance, somewhere the lines are blurred for us. It is the case of rote learning versus inquiry, curiosity and learning by mistakes rather than following a set formula to avoid them.
A South Asian parent once told me how disappointed he was that his son opted for the arts instead of engineering. The irony was that he never put his own engineering degree to use and ran a family clothing business instead. So what was the point of his degree?
Playing a Mozart piece perfectly may get you to the next level in your music exams but it rarely helps you create your own music. Creativity requires a leap of faith and breaking out of your comfort zone. It’s also much harder to deal with when your child is constantly questioning why things are or have to be done a certain way. True success doesn’t come from any formal training, it’s intrinsic to the values and path you carve out in life.
It’s time to acknowledge that our way may not be the only way or the right way… so why not let our kids surprise us. And who knows we might have a Newton, Da Vinci, Mary Andersen (invented windshield wipers) or Stephanie Kwolek (inventor of Kevlar) of our own.

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