Education and Creativity

I would appreciate some feedback from the people in the trenches out there.  Please understand that I am not seeking a fight here.  I merely want the opinions of those that actually deal with such issues on a day to day basis.   
I have heard it stated that mainstream education is educating the creativity out of students.  (i.e. free thinking is not encouraged)  
Do you agree or disagree?  If so, why?
Do you encourage students to think freely  in your classes, even if it means that they express an opinion/belief that others may disagree with? How do you handle such situations?
What do you do to encourage free thought?  
How do you create an environment where a student feels safe enough to voice an opinion that may differ from others?  
Thank you for taking time to respond.  
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