Published almost 2 years ago, The Creativity Crisis re-surfaced on Twitter yesterday from @IDEA and I had a re-read. (If you want to listen to the embedded podcast, start at about 12:30 for the interview with Bronson and Merryman.) If anything, reading this article today, the problem feels more urgent.
Here's another article tweeted by @IDEA about the same time yesterday: Building Better Kids. Written a year ago, it shares research that confirms some of what the first article begins with. That is, that things that are happening for human beings before the age of 10 tend to predict quite well how they are doing when they are all grown up. The second article goes on to use this research to argue for increased improvements in early childhood interventions. (Yes, of course, let's do that!) The authors use the compelling research to make the case that nothing can be done to change anyone's lot in life after the age of 3.
But the Creativity article shares another piece of the research which would seem to conflict. They say that the research shows that creativity has been on the decrease since the 90's. Here's the paragraph that explains:
Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary discovered this in May, after analyzing almost 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults. Kim found creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,” Kim says. It is the scores of younger children in America—from kindergarten through sixth grade—for whom the decline is “most serious.”
It would seem that, despite the research that is so clear that we must do the best we can by children's brains by the time they are 3, that we can't do anything after that can't quite be true, because, clearly, we have been doing something.
Funny, that these articles should both come by my Twitter feed yesterday just after I'd gotten back on the blogs and reset my intentions. Because they perfectly frame the dilemma. There are things we can do that increase creativity, innovation and engagement. The things we have been doing lately though, and only seem hell bent on doing more of, aren't working. They don't work. They take us backwards. Worst of all, they maintain the status quo -- who has and who hasn't -- secured for generations more. One might begin to think that part is by design... hmmm.
And we're so sure that what we know is all there is to do in school that the only thing we can do is build better brains before they get there? Really?
It is true that the creativity of children relies on the creativity of adults. Creativity is enhanced by collaboration. So why not start from the place that says we CAN turn this creativity crisis around and focus on new ideas instead of throwing up our hands over all the old things we've thought of so far? Countries all over the world are doing it. Schools and individuals all over this country are doing it. Let's focus our attention there. For example... click here.
And finally, some words of wisdom from Howard Gardner:
The Creative Mind:
The Creative Mind is embodied by Einstein in the Sciences and by Virginia Woolf in the Arts. People who are creative are those who come up with new things which eventually get accepted. If an idea or product is too easily accepted, it is not creative; if it is never accepted, it is just a false example. And acceptance can happen quickly or it can take a long time.
I believe that you cannot be creative unless you have mastered at least one discipline, art or craft. And cognitive science teaches us that on the average, it takes about ten years to master a craft. So, Mozart was writing great music when he was fifteen and sixteen, but that is because he started when he was four or five. Same story, with the prodigious Picasso. Creativity is always called “thinking outside the box.” But I order my quintet of minds in the way that I do because you can’t think outside of the box unless you have a box.
As a psychologist, I thought that creativity was mostly an issue of how good your mental computers were. But my own studies and those of others have convinced me of two other things. First, personality and temperament are at least as important as cognitive powers. People who are judged creative take chances, take risks, are not afraid to fall down, and pick themselves up, they say “what can I learn from this?” and they go on.
The other day I was giving a talk and the first question asked was “How do we make people creative”? And I answered that “It’s much easier to prevent it than to make it”. You prevent it by saying that there is only one right answer and by punishing the student if she offers the wrong answer. That never fosters creativity.
Second: People think of creativity as a property of the individual and therefore they say “I am creative”, but that doesn’t work. The only way that creativity can be judged is, if over the long run, the creators works change how other people think and behave. That is the only criterion for creativity. Therefore, the bad news is that you could die without knowing that you are creative, but the good news is that you will never know for sure that you are not creative.