Nevertheless She Persisted—in Creativity

Today I’m wearing my “Nevertheless She Persisted” tee shirt, tribute to Senator Elizabeth Warren’s political persistence, and the persistence of so many women who have needed determination to accomplish their goals. I did not know it would be so appropriate to today’s creativity news.

This week the Creativity Post blog featured a summary of new research by Kyung Hee Kim, a follow up to her much-publicized research on the “Creativity Crisis” in U.S. education. According to the new data, creativity test scores have continued to plummet since the original study was published in 2011. Based on her sample of over 250,000 tests since that time, Kim concluded that U.S. students generated even fewer solutions to problems, fewer original ideas, and less critical thinking than those examined in 2011. They demonstrated less open-mindedness and more “black and white thinking” (rigid, single-minded thinking) than students in earlier years. Declines were worst in the younger, elementary-aged, students. I found the results both depressing and profoundly disturbing.

Kim (not unreasonably) attributes the decline to the United States’ “test-centric” education system. This system, with its laser focus on the next high-stakes test, has limited opportunities for real-world application and problem solving, narrowed curriculum, discouraged risk taking (for students and teachers), allowed minimal time for imagination, and supports a host of other ills. Sometimes the wrong-headedness of it all makes me want to bang my head into the wall. The strategies that purport to ensure high quality education are removing the building blocks on which high quality education is constructed: deep understanding, problem solving, examination of multiple perspectives, and goals students find meaningful.

So, what do we do? Yet again, we persist. If you are an educator in the United States trying to support students’ deep learning, flexible thinking, problem solving, and opportunities for creativity and imagination, you must continue to do the good work and make your voice heard. This is not mushy-headed whining; this is a fight for our students’ minds and the historically creative soul of our country. If you are an educator elsewhere, your voice and work are equally important. If we did not persist, the price is paid by our children. This focus on standardized bubbles over young-people’s actual educational needs must not be allowed to continue.

Teachers, what are we going to do to stop it?

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