Mental · Social

The creativity crisis and how to recover

Imagination Playground Park, South Street Seaport area of New York City

Several researchers, psychologists, and journalists are exploring the idea of creativity right now. Two in particular stood out to me recently.

One was author Po Bronson and his article for Newsweek about the Creativity Crisis he and co-author Ashley Merryman believe is taking place in the United States with our current education system:

Like intelligence tests, Torrance’s test—a 90-minute series of discrete tasks, administered by a psychologist—has been taken by millions worldwide in 50 languages. Yet there is one crucial difference between IQ and CQ scores. Enriched environments are making kids smarter. With creativity, a reverse trend has just been identified and is being reported for the first time here: American creativity scores are falling.

Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary discovered this in May, after analyzing almost 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults. Kim found creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,” Kim says. It is the scores of younger children in America—from kindergarten through sixth grade—for whom the decline is “most serious.”

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.

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In response to Bronson’s article, Darell Hammond, CEO of Kaboom, a non-profit working to get more parks installed around the U.S., agreed, and wrote a commentary supporting Bronson’s article in the Huffington Post, as well as offering solutions on what can be done about this drop in creativity:

With objects as simple as boxes, rubber bands, and Styrofoam peanuts, children can create their own narratives and games; build something and tear it down; or simply play to enjoy shapes and textures.

We need to let our kids spend more time roaming freely in forests, backyards, fields, parks, and beaches — all environments rife with opportunities for creative play. And we need to rethink our playgrounds as places that not only let children run around and let off steam, but that also challenge, stimulate, and inspire their imaginations.

The first Imagination Playground Park, which opens this week at Burling Slip in the South Street Seaport area of New York City, is one such example. The park includes a sandpit, cascading water channel, rope climbing structure, and loose parts — such as burlap bags, buckets, shovels, brooms, carts and fabric. It also includes Imagination Playground blocks — blue blocks made from biodegradable foam that come in a variety of shapes and sizes and provide endless possibilities for creative play.

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What do you think? Are we suffocating the creativity and play out of our children? Are we doing enough to encourage it?

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