American schoolchildren are becoming less creative

December 2012

Kyung Hee Kim, a professor of education at the College of William and Mary, recently detected a continuous decline in creativity among American schoolchildren over the last two or three decades.

The data indicate that “children have become less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less talkative and verbally expressive, less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesizing, and less likely to see things from a different angle.” 

According to Kim’s research, all aspects of creativity have declined, but the biggest decline is in the measure called Creative Elaboration, which assesses the ability to take a particular idea and expand on it in an interesting and novel way.

Peter Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College, suggests, that the decline is a consequence of our educational system. “For several decades we as a society have been suppressing children’s freedom to ever-greater extents, and now we find that their creativity is declining”, he writes in “The Creativity Post”, a website dedicated to creativity.

Gray continues: “Creativity is nurtured by freedom and stifled by the continuous monitoring, evaluation, adult-direction, and pressure to conform that restrict children’s lives today.  In the real world few questions have one right answer, few problems have one right solution; that’s why creativity is crucial to success in the real world.  But more and more we are subjecting children to an educational system that assumes one right answer to every question and one correct solution to every problem, a system that punishes children (and their teachers too) for daring to try different routes.  We are also increasingly depriving children of free time outside of school to play, explore, be bored, overcome boredom, fail, overcome failure—that is, to do all that they must do in order to develop their full creative potential.”

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