The Creativity Crisis

Here’s an interesting article that follows a study done by E. Paul Torrance. The study started in 1958 with group of nearly 400 Minneapolis children who took part in a creativity study. The question you might be asking yourself is, how does one measure creativity? Well according to this study you can show the amount of creative potential and thought by judging whether the subjects of the study had “unusual visual perspecitve” and “an ability to synthesize diverse elements into meaningful products.”

What does that mean exactly? Well, Ted Schwarzrock, a participant in the study, can still remember the task given to him when he was 8.  He was given a fire truck and asked, “How could you improve this toy to make it better and more fun to play with?” He was able to find 25 ways, like adding a removable ladder, which impressed his evaluators.

Torrance’s creativity tasks have since become the gold standard, and “what’s shocking is how incredibly well Torrance’s creativity index predicted those kids’ creative accomplishments as adults. Those who came up with more good ideas on Torrance’s tasks grew up to be entrepreneurs, inventors, college presidents, authors, doctors, diplomats, and software developers…the correlation to lifetime creative accomplishment was more than three times stronger for childhood creativity than childhood IQ.” Though they differ in content, both the creativity test (CQ) and the IQ tests are very similar in the ways they are administered, the results are very different. “With intelligence, there is a phenomenon called the Flynn effect-each generation, scores go up about 10 points. Enriched environments are making skids smarter. With creativity, a reverse trend has just been identified and is being reported for the first time here: American creativity scores are falling.”

The researchers speculate on the reasons behind the decline – too many hours in front of the television or video games rather than engaging activities. In 2009 a controversial documentary came out that has another explanation. This review comes from Variety online:

“The War on Kids” contradicts popular wisdom. Studded with news reports of extreme “zero tolerance” incidents (children expelled for possessing Ibuprofen or for pointing a chicken tender and saying “bang”), Cevin Soling’s documentary posits that, far from being ridiculous exceptions to the rule as media coverage implies, such examples are endemic to a highly repressive, authoritarian [education] institution whose sole purpose is to control and contain.  …[The] docu then takes a giant if seamless step forward to suggest that the entire system of compulsory learning is designed, in the words of an award-winning teacher, “to infantilize the mass mind and condition it to take orders in a docile fashion.”

Check out the trailer below.

“A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 ‘leadership competency’ of the future.” What are your thoughts on the creativity crisis? Does it relate to the education crisis, as War on Kids implies? Respond on our discussion board. You can read more about the creativity test at Newsweek and a full review of the documentary at Variety or the New York Times.

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