The Innovator Education Paradox

By Sean Newman Maroni


We all know that the education system is imperfect.

In order to remain competitive in the global economy, American schools must better prepare our youth for the business challenges they will face. Specifically, schools must teach students to be problem solvers who can use their natural creativity and their education to produce new innovations.

To come up with a revolutionary new idea, you need the gift of creativity, and a deep understanding of the fundamental principals of the world we live in. While our school system is sometimes successful in teaching students these principals, it’s done by sacrificing creativity.

To create an obedient workforce for the industrial revolution era factories, our schools promoted conformity at every opportunity. To this day, we still sit our kids in orderly rows, schedule their days with a bell system, force them to memorize facts, and punish wrong answers.

By the time we are 21, this system has squished the natural creativity right out of us.

202772_10151180943575449_148356248_o-1024x617This was alarmingly obvious to me in college when as part of an entrepreneurship group I build a giant whiteboard designed to encourage passersby to scribble a creative idea.

I found that very often getting a peer to write a genuine idea in this public way was like pulling teeth. They would default to saying things like “I’m not creative…” and would sign their name and walk away.

Everyone is creative, but we’ve been conditioned to think otherwise.

It is this education at the expense of creativity that is the problem. Potentially innovative thought requires both. No creativity, and one cannot connect existing ideas in a novel way. No education, and the novel connections will be too trivial to be useful.

The Innovation Education Paradox, Sean Maroni

We must break out of this trap. We need to ditch the bells, the desks, the dense textbooks with answers in the back, and we need to stop medicating the curiosity from our kids. Currently innovation occurs in spite of our system, let’s make it happen because of the system.


Sean Newman Maroni is a senior in mechanical engineering at North Carolina State University. He is a Student Ambassador and the co-founder of BetaVersity, a startup specializing in building and supporting innovation ecosystems (see our blog post on it here). Sean can be reached at, and can be found writing about the amplification of human potential at (reprinted by permission).

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