Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Creativity on the Decline?

A common theme I come back to when I think and write about education and our school system is creativity. A growing consensus amongst educators, CEOs, scientists, and others is that the key skill/characteristic/trait one needs for the 21st century is creativity. But there is evidence that today's students are actually in decline when it comes to the ability to develop creative solutions to problems. This is outlined in a recent Newsweek article (many thanks to Linnea for pointing this out to me).

I can especially relate to the anecdote the author tells about an American visitor who is in China:

"Plucker recently toured a number of such schools in Shanghai and Beijing. He was amazed by a boy who, for a class science project, rigged a tracking device for his moped with parts from a cell phone. When faculty of a major Chinese university asked Plucker to identify trends in American education, he described our focus on standardized curriculum, rote memorization, and nationalized testing. “After my answer was translated, they just started laughing out loud,” Plucker says. “They said, ‘You’re racing toward our old model. But we’re racing toward your model, as fast as we can.’ ”

I understood this when I met with Singapore educators back in 2004 at Northwestern University. They were studying how the American system worked, and how, that's right, creativity was taught or included within a student's studies. With No Child Left Behind, I fear that we have prevented a generation of students from learning how to be creative in all disciplines. Neuroscience suggests creativity can be taught, and that it can be practiced. We have moved to a point where teachers are working with students about how to take a test, rather than how to do true problem solving and taking risks as to how they solve complex problems. Let's hope we realize this and do not repeat the mistake with the final version of Race to the Top.

The Drs. Eide have picked up on this same study. Their post is at

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