Thursday, August 12, 2010

Creativity Crisis

I have a friend who has been teaching English to Japanese kids overseas (or did before she had Visa troubles).  She talked to me about the difference in learning styles there and here.  "The kids at the Japanese school are smart in one sense...they know a lot of rote learning and can spit out facts left and right--but ask them to do something creative and they can't do it."

I thought of that while reading an article by Newsweek titled The Creativity Crisis.  It talked about how American kid's  creativity (based on the Torrance Creativity Test) had been declining since the 1990's.  And by creativity they didn't just mean artistic creativity, but creative thought--the ability to think of original and useful new ideas.   That's a serious crisis.

The article talked about how various places around the world have started moving  away from drill and kill education to focus more on creativity and problem solving skills.  Meanwhile American schools have been emphasizing standardized curriculum, rote memorization, and nationalized testing.   Members of one Chinese University commented to a visiting American that "‘You’re racing toward our old model. But we’re racing toward your model, as fast as we can." 

When I was training to become a teacher I saw that push to make American Schools more like Asian schools.  But I had friends from Japan and Korea who had grown up in those schools, and what they described was not what I wanted for our children.  They basically gave up their childhood for their education...and it seems that creativity was a casualty of that system as well.

What do you think? Do you see this happening in schools? Compared to when you were a child, do schools now seem to do a better or worse job at fostering creative thinking? And how do your encourage your own children to think creatively? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


  1. This mirrors what I've learned from friend teachers who have visited China and Japan. One friend saw incredibly beautiful paintings done by kindergarteners but then observed the children painting. Each brush stroke was directed by the teacher; the children did exactly as they were told. So interesting. The administrators of that school asked about creativity, and my friend gave them some suggestion.

    I teach in a progressive school district, and we have had conversations on this topic. I think we're moving in the right direction. Today's global community needs creative people, and we aim to shape students to meet those needs.

    Great post. Thanks for linking up!

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