Is There a Creativity Crisis?

Is There a Creativity Crisis?

Is There a Creativity Crisis?

While we may not yet be in a full-blown "creativity crisis," we may be heading in that very direction!

I just returned from South East Asia, where I was on sabbatical from my faculty position at Florida State University. A recurring question that educators and parents asked me during workshops that I led in Singapore and Hong Kong and during visits to schools throughout SE Asia was whether we are facing a creativity crisis. One might think that this is the case, according to two respected pop culture authors writing on recent trends in creativity. According to authors Bronson and Merryman, American creativity scores, once ever-rising, are now in a state of steady decline. They cite in their Newsweek article a 2011 study authored by Professor Kim at The College of William & Mary. Dr. Kim analyzed almost 300,000 scores on a popular creativity test – The Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. According to Kim, creativity scores have been steadily increasing until 1990, but then have sharply declined. Kim’s research suggests that the decline is particularly serious for younger children.

Kim’s findings are intriguing and provocative. However, it is premature for educators, parents or policy makers to panic. We need to wait to read the findings of other well-designed studies in peer-review journals before concluding that creativity is under threat. And studies need to go beyond a single measure like the Torrance Test, which is a far cry from actual measures of real-world creative products by kids.

Although the time to panic is not yet upon us, it does seem prudent to examine whether we are doing all that we can to encourage creativity in our schools…and in our homes! Here in America and globally. Just about everyone agrees that creativity is important and valued in today’s society.  Creativity is valued in almost every field. Creativity is valued in medicine, the sciences, engineering, teaching, the arts, business, government, and law. CEOs of Fortune 500 companies identify creativity, ingenuity, and imagination as critical leadership skills.

Yet, in today’s schools – both in the U.S. and from what I observed on sabbatical in SE Asia – we seem to place a premium on and emphasize standardized curriculum, rote learning of facts, memorization, and high-stakes testing. Although this might sound like a gross oversimplification and unfair stereotype, America’s schools continue to focus considerable time and resources on the learning and recall of information.  America’s schools ask our students to define, describe, identify, know, match, name, recall and recognize information, when viewed from Bloom’s well-known taxonomy of learning objectives. Schools demand less of students in terms of higher-level cognitive skills, including understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating. From this perspective, one might infer that if we are not presently facing, we might be drifting toward, a creativity crisis!

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