The Creativity Crisis

Newsweek ran a cover story on the “The Creativity Crisis” back in July of 2010, which caused strong reactions in creativity and education circles. Authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman revealed,

“For the first time, research shows that American creativity is declining. What went wrong—and how we can fix it?”

Creativity tests, developed by E. Paul Torrance, have been used for over 50 years to measure the creative thinking skills of children. Scholars have been tracking the children, since that time, recording creations such as patents, businesses founded, publications, art exhibitions, hardware innovations, public policies created, leadership positions, and buildings designed.

It turns out the Torrance test is surprisingly accurate in predicting future creative outputs. The average Torrance scores of U.S. children rose steadily until 1990, but have since declined. It is the scores of younger children in America — from kindergarten through sixth grade — for whom the decline is ‘most serious.’

Preschool children, on average, ask their parents about 100 questions a day. Why, why, why—sometimes parents just wish it’d stop. Tragically, it does stop. By middle school they’ve pretty much stopped asking. It’s no coincidence that this same time is when student motivation and engagement plummet. They didn’t stop asking questions because they lost interest: it’s the other way around. They lost interest because they stopped asking questions.

Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, says creativity outside the U.S. is rising: throughout Europe and Asia, schools that once encouraged rote learning are embracing creativity, while the trend in the U.S is to focus on standardized curriculum, rote memorization, and nationalized testing.

Researchers say creativity should be taken out of the art room and put into homeroom. The argument that we can’t teach creativity because kids already have too much to learn is a false trade-off. Creativity isn’t about freedom from concrete facts. Rather, fact-finding and deep research are vital stages in the creative process.

American teachers warn there’s no room in the day for a creativity class. Hmm. So do managers in the work place. Yet a recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs says creativity is the number one ‘leadership competency’ of the future.

Innovative CEOs know that science, math and technology are only part of the solution. Students need to learn how to solve problems, and how to conceptualize, not how to memorize everything the teacher says. Creative thinking should be integrated in the school curriculum.

Creativity is just as important in science and engineering as it is in art and design. The most creative people in any discipline have the ability to combine ideas from disparate domains and combine them in novel ways to create something new and useful. If creativity is not incorporated in schools and in the workplace, the consequences will indeed be felt in the marketplace. To stay competitive in a changing world, we need to think with our hands.

So, what is creativity learning exactly?

  • questioning and challenging assumptions, information.

  • making connections and seeing relationships between people, places and things

  • envisaging possibilities of what might be

  • exploring ideas, keeping options open

  • reflecting critically on ideas, actions and outcomes

Source: Creativity At Work

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