Last week Newsweek featured an article claiming creativity is on the decline in America. This conclusion comes from a study at the College of William and Mary. It’s based on Torrence scores, a test that has been used to measure creative thinking in children since the 1950s.
The Torrence data says creative thinking steadily rose in America from the late 50s up to 1990. Since then it has steadily declined.
This is bad news, bad news indeed. Blame video games all you like. I blame standardized tests.
And maybe I blame video games a little, along with TV. Kids need to make up their own imaginary worlds. If they spend all of their time in imaginary worlds created by other people, they have no motivation to exercise their creativity.
That said, I’ve never met an unimaginative 4-year-old. They aren’t coming to us less creative. We’re sucking out their natural creativity after we get them.
Also last week, Inside Higher Ed published an article claiming that our students are technologically illiterate. This may seem counter to all we’ve been hearing about the generation of digital natives, but it all ties back to the trend of declining creativity.
Stuart Selber, in his book “Multiliteracies for a Digital Age,” identifies levels of technological literacy ranging from functional (the ability to perform basic tasks) to rhetorical (the ability to produce something new within a technological environment, to be innovative).
So while our college students do have the functional literacy to perform a wide variety of technological tasks, they don’t, on any large scale, have the rhetorical literacy to become technologically productive or innovative.
It’s true. Being able to text message and post updates to MySpace and play video games doesn’t automatically translate into being able to perform technological tasks required to succeed in college or on the job. We need more creative people in the world and in our country. We need them to be creative online and off.
Draw. Write. Read. Sing. Dance. Act.
Do whatever you can to lead children (of any age) into a world of their own imaginations.
And while you’re at it, it wouldn’t hurt if you spoke up for more arts in the schools.