Is there a creativity crisis?

A Newsweek article on creativity says E. Paul Torrance‘s creativity test has been administered to millions of children in 50 languages — and American scores are on the decline.

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.”

The article posits that while other parts of the world make creativity a part of their curriculum, we have moved away from it and relegated it to art class, rather than treating creativity as a more interesting way to learn math or science, for example.

The author includes a good example of how creativity thinking takes place in the brain, and how people with well-developed creativity use their brains differently when presented with creative tasks. This encourages me to think creativity can be learned, and that we can learn to tap our brain’s potential if we give ourselves time to acquire those skills.

I’m grateful that I spent so many years as a reporter because working under constant deadline forces constant problem solving practice — can’t reach one source? can you find another? find a different way to reach him? switch to a different angle? a different story entirely? Then it’s hopping to quick story telling to collate those findings into something that’s hopefully coherent, practicing idea synthesis over and over again.

I’m also grateful for my elementary school principal, Ben Webb, who understood that I was disruptive because I was bored, not a trouble maker. He instituted a gifted and talented program that gave a small group of us lots of creative opportunities, without which I probably would have completely lost interest in school.

As school stuffs more complex information into their heads, kids get overloaded, and creativity suffers. When creative children have a supportive teacher—someone tolerant of unconventional answers, occasional disruptions, or detours of curiosity—they tend to excel. When they don’t, they tend to underperform and drop out of high school or don’t finish college at high rates.

Do you think creativity is declining in the U.S.? Do you do anything to cultivate your own creative thinking abilities?

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Categories: creativity

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1 reply

  1. There isn’t one, of course.
    What exists now is a creative vacuum, caused by the efficiency of the web and electronic communications. Many of the “digital immigrant” creatives have yet to catch up to the “digital native” creatives. Much like the Dark Ages, when only a very few or wealthy held power, these days will pass, the tools for communicating without the technological hurdles that exist now will advance to a broader user base — and there will be a creativity explosion. And it won’t be restrained by profit, retail, or payment models –– it will be self expression and appreciation on a global scale.

    A lightbulb always burns brightest right before it burns out. After a brief period of “darkness,” it gets replaced and the light lasts for a long time. Those events are coming, and it’s gonna be great.

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