An excellent lengthy article in Newsweek by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman about creativity reveals the shocking fact that today's American children are less creative than their counterparts twenty years ago.
It says: "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.”
This, at a time when creativity is more necessary than ever before, for solving the multitude of problems we face. It seems a paradox, coming at a time when the the internet and other technology is making it much easier to be a creator rather than just a consumer. Almost every child has a phone, a Facebook page, some have blogs, many are making videos to put on YouTube, they have access to almost unlimited information.
Yet creativity scores are going down.
What's responsible? The article says, "It’s too early to determine conclusively why U.S. creativity scores are declining. One likely culprit is the number of hours kids now spend in front of the TV and playing videogames rather than engaging in creative activities. Another is the lack of creativity development in our schools. In effect, it’s left to the luck of the draw who becomes creative: there’s no concerted effort to nurture the creativity of all children."
I'm skeptical about blaming television, and creativity has not been a part of many school programs in the past, either.
My guess--and that's all it is, of course--is that it has something to do with our increasing demand for instant gratification. We want what we want NOW. Creativity is about exploration, patience, and a willingness to go down the wrong paths, all of which take time and delaying gratification.
For instance, if you cook your own food, you're liable to try some variations on the recipe and that can be a kind of creativity; if you stick your store-bought meal into the microwave, the only option you have is whether you'll nuke it for 1 minute and 30 seconds or 1 minute and 40 seconds.
These findings should sound an alarm bell for the educational system, for business, and for individuals. We'll see whether that happens and, if so, whether people are ready to get creative about improving creativity.
(If there's a young person whose creativity you'd like to encourage, consider giving them a copy of my book, "Creativity Now!"--you can get it from Amazon or other online and offline retailers.)