Monday, April 25, 2011

Guest Blog : Part One Who needs Creativity

This is the first of a four-part guest posting series on creativity, written by Amanda Morgan of the child development blog, Not Just Cute. Follow along for the next three Mondays as we explore why creativity is important for our children, how it might be threatened, and what we can do to nurture creativity in the children we love. We are so excited to have Amanda share her thoughts and insights with our patients and look forward to the entire series.With our country's current emphasis on standardized test-based education, anyone anywhere can find loads of statistics on how states, districts, schools, even individual children are scoring on math and reading (both important, to be sure). But can anyone know how much creativity is being nurtured and encouraged in any one school or classroom? No one's following the creativity quotient of every schoolchild in America. But should they?

A few groups of researchers in this country are monitoring creativity in a sample of American students. One in particular, Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William and Mary reviewed nearly 300,000 samples of measured creativity and came to a conclusion almost one year ago that has left many who follow her research concerned. Typically, each subsequent generation produces higher scores on measures of both intelligence and creativity than the one before, products of their increasingly improved and enriched environments. But, as Kim discovered, creativity scores have been consistently declining for America's youngest citizens, a trend that began about 20 years ago.
What exactly is creativity, and why is it important?Some may say creativity doesn't really matter. Who cares if a kid can paint a picture as long as he can read, right? Well, creativity is more than the ability to weild a paintbrush. Creativity is what gives all the math and reading skills application, and therefore, meaning.

Creativity certainly is the source of inspiration for great works of visual art, literary novels, music pieces, and productions of stage and screen. But creativity is also the wellspring of problem-solving and inquiry. Creativity is the ability to think outside of the box, to be curious and resourceful.

Children who are creative are better prepared to be successful and thrive as children and as adults. Creativity aids in navigating social relationships and is the true source of all great professional accomplishments. Divergent thinkers not only become the painters and authors of the future, but they are the coaches who create game-winning plays, the entrepreneurs who find new ways to meet their customers' needs, and the medical professionals who develop cures for our toughest diseases.

The world is creating plenty of space for ingenuity. How will we address problems like the nation's debt? What can be done about pervasive poverty or world hunger? Who will find a better way of dealing with our mountains of garbage or with my own mountain of laundry? For those who believe in better tomorrows, all the answers lie in creative thinking. As certain as we are that our future generations need to be adept at math and reading, we can be equally sure that they will have problems to solve and will need the innovative capacity to tackle tough challenges in new ways.
Where has it gone?So, back to the research at William and Mary. Why has our nation's creativity index begun to fall? There are many theories. One I hold to is the problem of pervasive passivity. Perhaps our children suffer from being overly shielded from problems, from being taxied from one orchestrated event to another, from passive entertainment, and from passive education.

As passive passengers to their day, over-scheduling may be one factor stifling creativity in our children. Without uncharted spaces in the day, children aren't left with many opportunities for decision-making and coming up with creative, divergent ways to spend their time. Striking the balance between structure and boredom provides children with an open invitation to do some problem solving and think creatively.

Well-intentioned Tiger Mothers (and fathers, and teachers) who orchestrate every aspect of the day for their children are taking opportunities for problem-solving from their children. Solving our children's problems for them only leaves them ill-prepared to handle the inevitable life problems that lie ahead.

While few would argue that too much TV and video games can numb flexible thinking, we're doing our children an equal disservice when we allow them to have a passive role in their education. When we view education as an information in - information out process, that's all we can hope for our children to gain: information. If we want information, we can go to Google. If I want innovation, we need human creativity. Until we introduce an element of ingenuity, inspiration, and application, we've done little more than create a generation of encyclopedias.

With so much emphasis on standardized, rote transmission of facts too many teachers and parents are feeling the pressure to leave out the creative aspects of education and simply check off tasks from the curriculum list. They're eager to be sure that students know how to fill in the right bubble on their multiple-choice tests, because that is what the powers that be will look at. But in the process they may fail to light the fire of innovation and creative problem solving.
One of my favorite developmental theorists, Jean Piaget, said:
“The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things,not simply of repeating what other generations have done- men who are creative, inventive and discoverers.”

I agree.

Add your two cents.What do you think is threatening the creative capacity of children in America? What do you do to actively foster creativity in the young children in your life?
Read More:The Creativity Crisis {Newsweek}

**We are so excited and honored to have such an amazing "first" guest post! Amanda Morgan is a full time mom to three busy boys and a part-time trainer and consultant for a non-profit children's organization. She also writes at Not Just Cute, a blog full of ideas that are more than just cute, for children who are much more than cute too. Please continue to follow us NEXT Monday and continue to look at her website for more great ideas! Thanks AMANDA!

Top photo by clix.


Tracy said...

Boredom begets creativity.

Kids today are not given a chance to be bored. We feel the need to entertain them every second of every day whether it's enrichment classes, hovering parents, fancy gadget toys, or television...I agree that they need more down time that they must fill themselves.

I think, as parents, we feel guilty when we can't play with our kids. I think the Waldorf school of thought is right(as I understand it). Kids should have plenty of opportunities for free play (outdoors as much as possible) and opportunities to help with the work of the home. This gives them a sense of purpose.

I remember being bored a lot as a kid, and I also remember no one much caring that I was bored. As a result, my brother and my friends and I had to create games to play and we had a blast!

Thank you for the post! It's a good wake up call.

Leslie said...

This is absolutely a fabulous article... and exactly some of the thoughts I'm thinking about lately - especially as I'm planning an after-school kids program - I'm thinking that instead of a highly structured and scheduled program, the kids need free play, they need space and time to create, explore, discover - that is so lacking in their lives, and I'm thinking about the best way to create an environment like that for kids. Would love any thoughts!