The Creativity Crisis


The Creativity Crisis @ Newsweek

The potential consequences are sweeping. The necessity of human ingenuity is undisputed. A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 “leadership competency” of the future. Yet it’s not just about sustaining our nation’s economic growth. All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative solutions, from saving the Gulf of Mexico to bringing peace to Afghanistan to delivering health care. Such solutions emerge from a healthy marketplace of ideas, sustained by a populace constantly contributing original ideas and receptive to the ideas of others.

It’s too early to determine conclusively why U.S. creativity scores are declining. One likely culprit is the number of hours kids now spend in front of the TV and playing videogames rather than engaging in creative activities. Another is the lack of creativity development in our schools. In effect, it’s left to the luck of the draw who becomes creative: there’s no concerted effort to nurture the creativity of all children.

We have a lot of parents contact us asking about which kits they should consider for their kids to “supplement” the education they’re getting via public/private & home schools – usually we hear back weeks or months later with photos and stories of kits building and new projects (and sometimes a new hobby). Events like Maker Faire, local hacker spaces and activities like FIRST are also helpful it seems. We’re not sure blaming TV and video games is the best strategy – many kids make their own TV shows and create their own video games… this just doesn’t get encouraged or celebrated enough.

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  1. Ken Robinson says that it’s the education system that damages creativity, because it has historically (but increasingly) penalizes kids for making mistakes – which in turn makes kids not try things when they suspect that they won’t be successful, which has the ultimate effect of killing creativity – because creativity is impossible without risk.

    But I think fear of risk has also permeated our culture, especially the culture of parenting. Luckily, books like “50 dangerous things (you should let your children do)” seem to indicate a backlash against this fear, which could help swing those numbers back up, hopefully.

  2. The education industry is about turning out ISO9000 standard kids that can pass the “no child left behind test”. If you aren’t homeschooling you are letting your kids rot morally, creatively, and even intellectually.

    But the other industries will gladly take the product of the eduinc. How many places don’t want any crestivity. You are put into an identical cubicle and given the uniform IT load of whatever microsoft operating system with a monitor which is too dim for the overly bright overhead lights. Then you are asked to be creative – and you should wear a better shirt. Then they bring in consultants to conduct creativity seminars. (CodeAnthem and CodingHorror are good blogs on this).

    Creativity is rare because it is rarely REWARDED in the actual course and process of business.

  3. The educational system is a big problem. Our daughter is in a Montessori school, and they seem to let the kids find their way including making mistakes, which is good.

    Not everybody can homeschool and not everyone can send the kids to private school. Ultimately parents just have to get more involved as schools fail kids in the same way the average cube farm fails their parents.

    We have been doing workshops with our hackerspace and have been open to having kids attend, with some success. Now I’m thinking we should aim more workshops at kids and encourage people to bring their kids.

  4. The current US Education System, through which I have to suffer, tries to work only on weaknesses of the student instead of reinforcing strengths. In most districts, you don’t have a choice of classes until high school, and even then, the classes operate the same way. Unfortunately, if you don’t operate the way that they try to force you, there is very little chance of success later in life.

  5. *sigh*

    The problems with the education system are many, but the thing that’s missing in all of them is the lack of focus on the individual. Treating kids the same, and even worse forcing them all to solve the same problems in the SAME WAY is insidious and actually cruel, though perhaps unintentionally so.

    On a lighter note, am I the only one who would like to see the robot fight the shark?

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