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How Bad is the ‘Creativity Crisis?’

When a popular national magazine like Newsweek declares that there is a new ‘crisis,’ I do what many readers do.  I turn right to the article, and then automatically become skeptical.  When the article proclaims a ‘creativity crisis,’ my antennae become even more fine-tuned.  What is a ‘creativity crisis?’ And how do they know there is one?

Regardless of my skepticism, the article, based on a half century of research by E. Paul Torrance and others, raises concerns about the creative competency and competitiveness of our workforce.  Historically, Torrance’s creativity index has been a good predictor of young people’s creative accomplishments as adults, and after many years of seeing the creativity index rise in the U.S., it is now on the decline.  This is bad news for business, as a highly creative workforce helps us to be competitive in world markets. According to Newsweek, this decline may have reached crisis proportions.

The article makes me wonder about the basis for such conventional creativity tests designed 50 years ago.  These tests most likely do not measure digital forms of creativity (e.g., re-mixing and sampling music, electronic “curating” of photo albums) that are currently such a large part of the creative life of young people.  Could it be that their innate creativity is simply utilizing new tools and being expressed in unconventional forms?  I have always tested high on traditional creativity tests but my seven-year-old grandson is far more creative when it comes to digital activities.

The overall message of this article is one we can all agree on: there is a need for a different kind of educational approach in this country that is not solely controlled by standardized tests and strict curricula, but rather is based on identifying and solving problems with a hands-on approach, and is available for everyone.


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