A friend pointed me to the article, “The Decline of Creativity in the United States: 5 Questions for Educational Psychologist Kyung Hee Kim,” published on the Encyclopedia Britannica Blog (18 October 2010). Ms. Kim works as an associate professor of educational psychology at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia and has spent her professional life in schools and academic institutions. Read the entire question-and-answer article at: The Decline of Creativity in the United States.
In my opinion, the last section of this article provides the most useful information: Ways to stimulate creativity. These ideas include preserving curiosity, being less protective of children, fostering independence, and so on. I don’t agree with every idea and leave it to readers to determine which make sense for their families.
My brothers and I had lucky and creative childhoods. We lived in a semi-rural area and had the run of my grandfather’s 10-acre tree nursery and orchard across the street. (Other neighborhood kids enjoyed it, too.) And we set up a home chemistry lab that eventually outgrew our basement and expanded into our grandfather’s. We blew things up (outdoors) with home-made explosives, created our own fireworks, learned how to use power tools and hand tools, figured out how to work with metal and wood, built go carts with old lawnmower engines, camped out on a moment’s notice, built numerous forts (some underground!), built rafts for the beach, rockets and radio-controlled planes, took things apart, had pick-up ball games without parents, science-fair projects without parental control, and suffered through few parent-mandated activities such as soccer, band, and so on. And no one in the family said, “No, you can’t do that, it’s impossible.”
My brother Chris worked with smoke-making compositions in his home-made optical densitometer in our basement chem lab, circa 1967.
According to Kim, “The U.S. can expect its international status to slide, if the new generation is less well prepared to deal with the future challenges that await them, and if innovation and free thinking is discouraged… Global competition will rush in to offer solutions to perceived problems. Future leaders will not be ready to accept risks, even though the population may expect the rewards that the previous generations enjoyed as their legacy. The U.S. productivity (compared with other countries) and the standard of living may slip, and this will lead to frustration and possibly to more insular thinking…”
Parents today seem to focus on activities they think will get kids into college rather than letting kids be kids and develop their own creativity. Come on folks, loosen up a bit.
I welcome your thoughts on increasing creativity in today’s young people. –Jon Titus