4 Reasons for the Decline of Creativity

CC licensed photo credit flickr user mrsdkrebs

CC licensed photo credit flickr user mrsdkrebs

There seems to be the well-founded belief now a days that creativity among our youth is on the decline. For the most part, reasons attributed to this decline vary, but popular opinion suggests that it’s the direct result of standardized testing and the expectation among some that teachers teach to these tests. I see a valid argument in support of this notion, however I feel that it is short sighted and narrow minded to attribute this decline of creativity to only one reason. Below I offer 4 reasons for the decline of creativity among our youth.

1. Boredom No Longer Exists

Often my colleagues, friends, PLC, and PLN can be seen or heard reflecting on the “good ole days” when we were young and had to entertain ourselves, without the use of all the technology that is available today. Quite literally, I personally remember making games out of nothing more than a tiny stone on the ground. In fact, this past October the entire 6th grade at my school went on a trip to an outdoor education/leadership camp a couple our outside of Shanghai, and a group of about 10 did just that. They made a complete game, with rules and everything, out of nothing more than a stone and the skill of balancing on one foot. Where did this game come from? How did this game come to fruition? It had never been played at school, nor had it come from one of the teachers. It was the product of collaboration and creativity, and the direct result of boredom. That’s right, boredom. These students were standing around one morning, waiting for the camp guide to arrive and escort them to that morning’s activity. There were no computers, no phones, no ball, and no adult telling them what to do. They were bored. In turn created a fun, entertaining, and engaging game to play, and all they needed was a stone. Unfortunately, I believe that boredom is a rare commodity in today’s over-stimulated youth culture. There is always something to do, and usually the activities chosen to break the rare occurrence of boredom are usually a product of someone else’s creativity, not there own. One thing we can do to foster creativity is to embrace boredom.

2. Failure is Feared

Currently I am reading the classic “How Children Fail” by John Holt. The overall theme at this point in my reading is fear. Holt brilliantly observes that in traditional classrooms children are so afraid of failure that they have adapted to stressful situations by acquiring numerous strategies to avoid failure. It turns out that students, when faced with the possibility of “failing” would rather say nothing at all, or do nothing at all. In these high stress classroom environments being creative is no longer an option. Luckily many teachers are actively participating in today’s education reformation and have themselves developed ways to facilitate safe learning environments, and allow their students the freedom to explore their own creativity. Unfortunately this progressive approach to learning is not the current norm. We as educators need to do more to rid the classroom of fear, and thus support every opportunity for our students to explore and demonstrate their own creativity.

3. Creativity is not Standard

As mentioned earlier standardized testing takes a lot of the heat when placing blame for the decline of creativity among students today. Education reform in part, is an attempt to counter the emphasis and importance placed on standardized testing, and therefore, will hopefully result in a more creative, differentiated approach to instruction and learning. How can we expect our students to demonstrate a creative approach when the way in which they are being assessed contradicts the foundations of creativity? Being “creative” requires that students think outside the norm, develop different ways of thinking and problem solving, and challenge the status quo. In no way does standardized learning allow for the acquisition and demonstration of these skills. The good news is the movement to reform this approach is in full swing. We just need to develop a longterm perspective see the reform through.

4. The Foundation is Flawed

I know that Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy gets its fair share of the educational spotlight, but it can’t be ignored when discussing the decline creativity. As I’m sure you know, Bloom began his frame work of critical thinking skills with the lower order, which then gradually develop into those of the higher order as one moves through the taxonomy. He also suggests the notion that one cannot master one skill until the prior has been successfully achieved. Along this line of thinking, the skill “Remembering” must be achieved before “Understanding” and so on through the taxonomy, until you reach the highest order of the critical thinking skills, “Creating”. Now I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. I argue that we as educators may not be adequately transitioning our students through each of the steps laid out by Bloom, and if this is indeed the case, perhaps our students lack the skills necessary for the high order thought required to be truly creative. In other words, students can’t demonstrate high levels of creativity because they have not yet acquired the necessary skills.

I am of the opinion that the decline of creativity cannot be attributed to only one reason. In fact I believe that the problem is extremely complex and the product of multiple contributors. The four reasons discussed above are simply the ones that come to my mind. I am very much interested hearing what you think about the subject. Please add a comment, and share other reasons that you feel may contribute the decline of creativity among our youth, and perhaps add solutions that have worked for you. Creativity must be fostered and  protected if we are do right by our students!

Written by: Brett Petrillo

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“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”

- John Maxwell

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