Many experts and futurists believe that our schools in particular need to place greater emphasis on right-brain functions such as big-picture thinking and the ability to conceptualize.
Tania De Jong writes in her article “Creativity: The Strategic Tool Of The Twenty-first Century”: “Creativity offers the answers to many of the big issues that we face in these unprecedented times, because it can help unlock our full human potential and connect us to others.” (1) De Jong continues: “If you enter a kindergarten, you will encounter some of the best creative thinking that you will find: finger paintings of pink and green people
and blue dogs set against polka-dot skies, and imaginative stories about fairies in magical and faraway places. Young children are naturally creative and they are continually creating new ways to learn and constructing a world view from a collection of initially disconnected events, colours, movements and sounds.”
So what happens between the open and effortless experimentation of childhood and the struggle to think creatively that is experienced by so many in adulthood?(2)
Entrepreneur Béa Beste, co-founder of Germany’s bilingual Phorms schools and a member of the 2011/2012 “Future Dialog” (Zukunftsdialog) expert panel set up by the German Chancellor, comments as follows: “Every day, our schools answer thousands of questions that young people don’t have with thousands of answers that don’t interest them – and then they test them to see if they have the answers in their head. That’s no way to educate our children so that they have an innovative spirit. We need more creativity in learning!” (3)
Let´s take a look to a study of Adobe, they conducted in the U.S. in November 2012. The results were reflective of a demand for school and university curricula to place more importance on creativity. College-educated professionals were asked how important creativity had been to their professional success. What do you think, what had been the result?
• 78% of respondents agreed that creativity was important to their career.
• 90% agreed that creativity is important for economic growth.
• 96% believed that creativity is important for society.
And there´s more! Kyung Hee Kim, a professor of education at the College of William and Mary in the U.S. state of Virginia, has documented a continuous decline in creativity among American schoolchildren over the past two to three decades.(4)
Peter Gray, Ph.D., research professor at Boston College, writes about her study in his article in “Psychology Today”. “Kim analyzed scores on a battery of measures of creativity – called the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) – collected from normative samples of schoolchildren in kindergarten through twelfth grade over several decades. According to Kim’s analyses, the scores on these tests at all grade levels began to decline somewhere between 1984 and 1990 and have continued to decline ever since.”(5)
Futurists Ryan Matthews and Watts Wacker recently stated: “Creativity has become the most universally endangered species of the twenty-first century. Never has the need for creativity been so compelling and never has genuine creativity been in such short supply.”(6)
Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D., the „TED-talk-hero“ and internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation, has said: ”The truth is that everyone has great creative capacities but not everyone develops them. One of the problems is that too often our education systems don’t enable students to develop their natural creative powers. Instead they promote uniformity and standardization. The result is that we are draining people of their creative possibilities and producing a workforce that’s conditioned to prioritize conformity over creativity. Kids don’t grow into creativity, they grow out of it. Or rather get educated out of it. We are educating people out of their creative capacities.”(7)
Adobe conducted its “State of Create Global Benchmark Study” in April 2012.
The results are no less shocking than Robinson’s conclusions. Adobe determined that the world’s five largest economic powers have a creativity deficit. 59% of respondents blamed this on the education system!(8)
From my point of view, one of the most dramatic rserach results are coming from the „hippie times“. George Land and Beth Jaman got to the heart of the matter long before Robinson reached an audience of millions via YouTube in his famous TED talk. The NASA study conducted by the two – criticizing the system, teachers and tuition methods. The scientists indicated as early as 1968 that education and schooling posed a threat to the development of creativity.
How did they do that? 1600 five-year-olds took a creativity test used by NASA to find talented engineers and scientists. The results of the study showed that every human with normal cognitive development has a similarly high creative potential in childhood, but this decreases with age. George Land concluded that “uncreative behavior is learned.”(9)
Edward Sztukowski summarizes the study’s result in his article on Allpsychologycareers.com as follows: “Some researchers believe that developmentally something occurs physiologically to instigate such a huge decline in creativity around age 10. Others attribute the drop in creativity to a time period where kids become aware of conformity and adhering to social conventions and norms, diminishing their creativity.”(10)
The study implies that school education takes away young people’s creativity, as they lose their curiosity and interest in the world over the course of their schooling and are “rationalized”. The root of this is the pressure to always give the right answer. Schools teach every pupil to meet certain standards and conform. The longer children remain in school, the less they feel the urge to seek out alternative solutions, and the more they fear that pursuing alternative routes will lead to them making mistakes.
The results also confirm that uninspiring “chalk and talk” teaching and long periods spent sitting at desks reduce children’s creativity. The shocking result? Pupils spend most of their school time being expected to sit quietly and listen to monotonous lectures by teachers.(11)
Many studies today also imply that extremely structured, conventionally arranged classrooms and traditional teaching methods all but sabotage creativity. Today’s researchers agree on one thing: the myth that only a few people are natural creative talents is no longer sustainable. We now know that everyone is born with the same creative potential. Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D., says: “The truth is that everyone has great capacities but not everyone develops them.”(12)
1 De Jong, Tania – Creativity: The Strategic Tool Of The Twenty-first Century – Australian Business Solutions (December 18, 2012) http://bit.ly/I4zmAx
2 De Jong, Tania – Creativity: The Strategic Tool Of The Twenty-first Century – Australian Business Solutions (December 18, 2012) Australian Business Solutions, http://bit.ly/I4zmAx
3 Beste, Bea – www.playducation.de (April 2012)
4 Kim, Kyung Hee – The creativity crisis: The decrease in creative thinking scores on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. Creativity Research Journal, 23, 285-295 (2011)
5 Gray, Peter – Psychology Today in “Freedom to Learn”. Published on September 17, 2012
6 Matthews, Ryan and Wacker, Watts (2010)
7 Robinson, Ken – TED Talk 2007, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY
8 Adobe – Adobe State of Create Global Benchmark Study and Adobe State of Create Infographic, global benchmark study about attitudes to and beliefs about creativity at work, school and home (2010)
9 Land, George and Jarman, Beth – Breakpoint and Beyond (1968)
10 Sztukowski, Edward on http://www.allpsychologycareers.com/topics/creativity-in-education.html
11 Sahlberg, Pasi – The role of education in promoting creativity: potential barriers and enabling factors (European Training Foundation), http://bit.ly/18wuPT7
12 Robinson, Ken – “Creativity in Education, Explore how educators are trying to foster creativity in students” – www.allpsychologycareers.com