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The Creativity Crisis

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the insert-witty-dept-line-here dept.

Education 571

An anonymous reader writes with this quote from an article at Newsweek: "For the first time, research shows that American creativity is declining. ... Like intelligence tests, Torrance's test — a 90-minute series of discrete tasks, administered by a psychologist — has been taken by millions worldwide in 50 languages. Yet there is one crucial difference between IQ and CQ scores. With intelligence, there is a phenomenon called the Flynn effect — each generation, scores go up about 10 points. Enriched environments are making kids smarter. With creativity, a reverse trend has just been identified and is being reported for the first time here: American creativity scores are falling. 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.'"

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This post proves the opposite! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32865976)

ummm... first post!

Play time? (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#32865980)

Shocking, who'd've thought that standardized testing, eliminating recess and general free time would have consequences. Perhaps actually letting kids play would help that.

Re:Play time? (4, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | about 4 years ago | (#32866046)

Unsupervised 'play' is far too dangerous for little snowflake. Think of the lawsuits.

Re:Play time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32866308)

I can't think of the lawsuits, my ability for creative thought it too low.

Re:Play time? (4, Insightful)

Third Position (1725934) | about 4 years ago | (#32866166)

Well, I don't really think the article tells us enough to come to any conclusions. Obviously, the population of America in 2010 is very different from the population in 1960. I'd like to see the demographics amplified. What is the socio-economic background of the creative? What parts of the country do they come from? Where and how have they been educated? What is the correlation to race/class? What kind of family relationships do they have? How does parental participation influence creativity?

I'm not getting the feeling there's a lot of helpful information here.

Re:Play time? (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#32866210)

When you look back in time, the only pattern I've ever seen is access to implements and free time. Admittedly, that's highly unscientific, but having free time in which to do nothing and where one doesn't have to produce as a portion of the day is really important if one wishes to create anything.

Re:Play time? (5, Funny)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | about 4 years ago | (#32866374)

Obviously, the population of America in 2010 is very different from the population in 1960

That's right! In the 1960s, they used more creativity enhancing substances.

I think this article is a case for the legalization of recreational drugs.


Re:Play time? (4, Funny)

houghi (78078) | about 4 years ago | (#32866466)

I'm not getting the feeling there's a lot of helpful information here.

Just use your imagination. Jeez!

Re:Play time? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32866200)

Ha! Are you using the data from one type of standardized test (CQ) to criticize the validity of other standardized tests?

Perhaps we need to just teach to the test (CQ). That will certainly make kids more creative.

Also, am I the only one who is confused on how you can use a standardized test to measure something like creativity? How can you objectively measure something that is so subjective?

Validity (5, Insightful)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | about 4 years ago | (#32866202)

I don't see anyone asking if the "creativity test" is even valid.

How's the test structured? What's the researcher's definition of creativity? What are they measuring? Creativity is a very subjective concept as it is.

Just because someone creates a test doesn't mean it measures what they think it measures. We've been through all this with intelligence tests.

Re:Validity (4, Insightful)

biryokumaru (822262) | about 4 years ago | (#32866476)

If only there were people with PhDs on the subject to do tedious and costly research over decades, publishing papers in important psychology journals and conferring with one another to develop a scientific understanding of how the mind works. Then we could trust these people to make scientific determinations about humans the way we can trust engineers to make decisions about bridges, or judges to make decisions about law.

Too bad psychologists are all a sham and are clearly only making it up as they go along. I mean, I've watched Frasier. Anyone could do their job.

Re:Play time? (1)

conureman (748753) | about 4 years ago | (#32866290)

That's been one half of my observation; The other half of the anecdote regards the brain dysfunction that seems to set in after approximately 1 hour of video-game playing, which then persists for the remainder of that day. [Dons Aluminium Headgear] I believe it's all a part of the greater conspiracy to prevent "Change".

Re:Play time? (5, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | about 4 years ago | (#32866486)

There's slightly more to it than that I fear.

One of the most important things I learned in art classes were in how to visualize things to produce better realism. This was important so that things that I would later imagine became more realistic and better developed. This all developed a more structured imagination which enabled more complexity of imagination and creativity.

The problem with today's young minds as I see it is a decrease in ability to concentrate and build complex things from more simple things. The famed "short attention span" often called "AD/HD" or the like are, in my view, the simple lack of a practiced mind. Kids don't play with building toys as much as they once did -- they play with action figures re-enacting scenes from their favorite movies. More, there is a decrease in the actual participation of adults in play! That is a HUGE factor.

When my older boys were between 7 and 10, they told me "we like you because you are always tricking us." And I was. I was testing their minds and perception with tricks and jokes of various sorts. Some times they would figure it out on their own, other times I had to provide clues and hints. Whatever the case, their minds were challenged and they enjoyed it. Fast forward to present day, I have a 19 year old entering the nuclear sciences field and a 17 year old in advanced college courses while in high school. They are both extremely fun and creative individuals with strong logic, reasoning and math skills along with interests in music and graphic arts. These boys can literally do anything they want in life as their skill set is adaptable and versatile. This was no accident... and strangely, they are also quite happy when compared to the common "achiever" who is pressured by parents for excellent grades and the like.

My boys targeted mastery and personal fulfilment as their paths. The common "achiever" tends to "study for the test" and fills in the blocks for achievement set before them by curricular academics. My boys aren't #1 in their peer groups though... they aren't any of those latin titles/ranks. Those are most often for the achievers to struggle and fight for. Instead, they are simply the best they can be while being happy and satisfied with themselves which is all I ever wanted for them.

What is lacking as much as things no longer available in school, is parental participation. And what is more unfortunate is that this has been a problem in my own generation and now two generations of parents lack the experience of good parent teaching themselves and have no clue nor inclination to provide that experience for their children. Our society of instant gratification and bubblegum pop culture has dug a hole that it won't easily climb out of until the next renaissance which isn't likely to happen again any time soon.

What gets me is that I didn't actually have the ideal family experience growing up. I had divorced parents. I had split custody juggling me around. I had a mother who more or less personified the parent who didn't care to teach her son anything (I once humiliated myself by assuming than an "address" was something girls wore and told my teacher that I didn't have one because I was a boy!) and a father who only had every-other-weekend to teach me the things he thought I should know and frankly, I wasn't all that interested in learning from him. He managed to teach me things anyway when I wasn't noticing and he taught me the nature of numbers... negative and positive, wholes and decimals/fractions... all in a matter of about 30 minutes in front of an oscilloscope. No exaggeration and no joke. That was when the lights came on in my head and frankly, I believe that's all a kid needs -- something to turn the lights on.

We do have a problem in our schools, but the biggest problem is with our parents. Many people reading me here today are parents. Are you challenging your kids? Are you "tricking" them with riddles and jokes? Are you showing them why wheels are amazing inventions? Do they know how to fix a tire on their bicycle? (Do they even ride a bicycle?) Can they build things from clay, sticks, blocks or anything? These things are all essential to build a technical foundation upon which creativity can be grow increasingly more complex and detailed. My younger brother has three kids of his own and an ex-wife with three kids too... what did THEY do? I don't know but I know my brother and his wife spent a lot of time playing Runescape instead of spending time with their kids. It is no mystery as to how his kids developed and why. The assumptions about my niece and two nephews I just led you to are quite accurate.


Thank God for standardized testing (5, Informative)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 4 years ago | (#32865982)

I have a rising third grader. I've been informed that the next year will be all about memorization of the necessary facts which will get her to pass the Virginia "Standards Of Learning" (yes, they really call them the SOLs) exam at year end. Everything in the school system, from her promotion to the evaluations of the teachers, administrators, and facility are tied to these scores. There is no creativity required or recommended on these exams.

Re:Thank God for standardized testing (4, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | about 4 years ago | (#32866092)

There is no creativity required or recommended on these exams

So what? School only lasts a few hours a day. What are you doing for the hours, days, and months between classes to actually make a difference? Creativity is fostered in a big-picture way. Kids will bring creativity to their school work and opportunities if it's a solid part of the environment and circumstances in which they're raised.

Creativity is declining because parents are washing their hands of the responsibility to shape the minds of their own kids. You don't get an inquisitive, creative mind at school - you arrive at school with one.

Re:Thank God for standardized testing (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32866134)

No one who is directly involved in the education of children should wash their hands of teaching creativity. Creativity should be fostered at home and at school and teachers should be very much aware of that.

A part of the problem is that schools focus too much on finding solutions to problems. That's a critical part of problem solving, but the much more crucial part is formulating the problem in the first place. That's a creative process and what is completely missed by teaching to standards.

Re:Thank God for standardized testing (4, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 4 years ago | (#32866178)

Creativity is declining because parents are washing their hands of the responsibility to shape the minds of their own kids. You don't get an inquisitive, creative mind at school - you arrive at school with one.

Where it is promptly beaten out of you.

The article didn't say creativity has disappeared. It said it's declining. It doesn't take disinterested parents to do that, all it takes is the removal of one previously encouraging environment to tip the balance in the other direction.

Re:Thank God for standardized testing (5, Informative)

statusbar (314703) | about 4 years ago | (#32866260)

Ken Robinson spoke of this at TED years ago: []

highly recommended talks...and funny too.


Re:Thank God for standardized testing (2, Insightful)

emkyooess (1551693) | about 4 years ago | (#32866392)

You beat me to it. Creativity is promptly beaten out of you in today's society.

Re:Thank God for standardized testing (4, Insightful)

shoemilk (1008173) | about 4 years ago | (#32866232)

Yes. It's the school's fault. I am perfect. I raise my kids as they should be: TV, Internet flash games, and pre-determined interactive iPad apps.

Re:Thank God for standardized testing (3, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 4 years ago | (#32866250)

School lasts 6 hours a day, which is a pretty big chunk of time. And a lot of that time is spent turning kids into uncreative conformist machines - if they resist that then they label them ADHD and drug the creativity out of them instead.

But yes the fact that lots of families need both parents to work in order to make ends meet (though that pre-dates the 1990s a little) and that childrens' activities are far more structured than they once were isn't helping.

Re:Thank God for standardized testing (4, Informative)

Moryath (553296) | about 4 years ago | (#32866364)

"6 hours"? You're joking, right?

The school day (average kid) where I grew up was as follows:
6 AM: Get out of bed.
6:30 AM: Be on bus to school. Be Fucking Quiet for an hour, the bus driver didn't want to have to deal with kids.
7:30 AM: Unload from buses in "orderly fashion."
7:45 AM: first class begins.
11:30 AM: Lunch period begins. Orderly file through line, either eat bag lunch or "hot lunch" option. "Be Quiet" as teachers monitor you.
12:15 PM: here begins "15 minute recess", consisting of 5 minutes of lining up to go outside, 5 minutes of play, 5 minutes of lining up to go back inside.
12:30 PM: Classes resume.
4 PM: Reload on buses. Once again, Be Fucking Quiet.
5-5:30 PM: Get back home, depending on traffic.
5:30 PM-6:30PM: Dinner.
6:30PM-8PM: "Homework", consisting of the boring fucking busy-work that nevertheless will fuck your grades over if you don't do it.
8pm-9PM: optional (PARENT option, not kid option) practicing of musical instrument or singing if you were enrolled in Music Concentration Camp... er "Music Class" of some sort where we never got to perform anything truly interesting.

Small wonder the kids have no creativity. The fact that I have mine still is only a function of the fact that I convinced most of my teachers to just give me the homework listings ahead of time and let me do it during school time sitting in the back of class, rather than wasting my evenings on the fucking busy work.

Re:Thank God for standardized testing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32866422)

The little boy went first day of school
He got some crayons and started to draw
He put colors all over the paper
For colors was what he saw
And the teacher said.. What you doin' young man
I'm paintin' flowers he said
She said... It's not the time for art young man
And anyway flowers are green and red
There's a time for everything young man
And a way it should be done
You've got to show concern for everyone else
For you're not the only one

And she said...
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There's no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen

But the little boy said...
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one

Well the teacher said.. You're sassy
There's ways that things should be
And you'll paint flowers the way they are
So repeat after me.....

And she said...
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There's no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen

But the little boy said...
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one

The teacher put him in a corner
She said.. It's for your own good..
And you won't come out 'til you get it right
And are responding like you should
Well finally he got lonely
Frightened thoughts filled his head
And he went up to the teacher
And this is what he said.. and he said

Flowers are red, green leaves are green
There's no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen

Time went by like it always does
And they moved to another town
And the little boy went to another school
And this is what he found
The teacher there was smilin'
She said...Painting should be fun
And there are so many colors in a flower
So let's use every one

But that little boy painted flowers
In neat rows of green and red
And when the teacher asked him why
This is what he said.. and he said

Flowers are red, green leaves are green
There's no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen.
--Harry Chapin

Re:Thank God for standardized testing (4, Interesting)

houghi (78078) | about 4 years ago | (#32866438)

When I was kid, I remember playing with a stick and imagined it was a sword and a gun and a spear and a lightsabre and a shovel and ...
Now parents will buy the kid a play-lightsabre. You can not imagine that to be a shovel or a gun. You could use it as such, but it isn't one in your mind. The stick WAS everything I wanted it to be.

When I was young, I read books and imagined how each person looked like. That part is gone. Many kids now have a fixed image of characters and how they must look like. Getting an image imprinted in your memory is the opposite of imagination.

School is part of the problem... (1)

IANAAC (692242) | about 4 years ago | (#32866112)

But creativity can and should be fostered outside the school system too.

Re:Thank God for standardized testing (4, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 4 years ago | (#32866208)

Let me clarify: in my house, creativity is highly encouraged. We work with my daughter every night (though not in a "structured" way that feels like work). She's a wonderful child who loves music and theater, is reading about 4 grades above her "level", and is on par in math.

The problem is that the regimented way in which some things are taught can lead to problems in learning. After a very poorly presented math year in first grade, we spent most of last year trying to "undo" the damage. She's terrified of subtraction (first grade), and yet multiplication and fractions (second grade) are "fun." It took us most of first grade to figure out that the teacher didn't like math, so she tried not to teach it - just timed workbooks and tests.

I do think that more than half of the problems in school stem from problems at home. It seems that very few (one in ten, one in eight?) families actually work with their children in a meaningful way. The rest are left to drift, or are actively discouraged from academic pursuits. After long days at work, the parents are tired and don't really want the burden of teaching anything. Sad, really.

Re:Thank God for standardized testing (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 4 years ago | (#32866300)

I recommend relocation. Memorization is for morons. It was only partially so in the past, but with the raise of IT and access to the Internet everywhere, the time for knowing details is over.

It doesn't have to be just one way... (2, Interesting)

IANAAC (692242) | about 4 years ago | (#32866410)

Memorization can be a good thing. I think the problem is in the way memorization is taught.

Knowing - and probably more importantly learning - details is still quite valuable. Just a matter of how it's actually done.

Re:Thank God for standardized testing (2, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 4 years ago | (#32866442)

It's that way almost everywhere now. No Child Left Behind (and other, similar programs) has driven school systems to need these benchmarks to survive. I happen to live in one of the best places in the country, imho. Heck, I learned a new trade just so I could move here and make a living. I don't fear for my child's future, but there are lots of parents who just don't care - and that's a universal truth. As for moving to another country - everybody has their own problems. At least here I know what they are.

Re:Thank God for standardized testing (1)

Teun (17872) | about 4 years ago | (#32866448)

Yeah, for example judging by the comments on lot's of forums you are spot on.

Re:Thank God for standardized testing (3, Interesting)

krou (1027572) | about 4 years ago | (#32866454)

In the words of Woodrow Wilson, "We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forego the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."

Creativity is not conducive to performing difficult manual tasks.

Business as usual (1)

mangu (126918) | about 4 years ago | (#32866488)

the next year will be all about memorization of the necessary facts which will get her to pass the Virginia "Standards Of Learning" (yes, they really call them the SOLs) exam at year end

In my school years during the 1960s we had to memorize the mountains of Asia, rivers of Africa, which king in Europe started which war, etc.

It seems like nothing has changed.

CQ? (0, Redundant)

Kenoli (934612) | about 4 years ago | (#32865984)

Never heard of it.

Re:CQ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32866010)

Never heard of it.


They need to go administer it to 4Chan, something tells me that the upper bound will be changed pretty rapidly

Expected (4, Interesting)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | about 4 years ago | (#32866028)

If you're familiar with the founding principals [] of the public education system this isn't a surprise. Schools were intentionally designed by early 20th century psychologists to reduce creativity and increase conformity.

If anything, it's surprising that it took this long before this effect started to manifest.

Re:Expected (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 years ago | (#32866252)

If only that guy would discover the magic of the citation, you could use him as a citation.

Re:Expected (4, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | about 4 years ago | (#32866262)

John Taylor Gatto's writings are essentially the ravings of a crackpot. Clear refutations of his thesis that compulsory public schooling is evil include:

  • Countries that are beating the pants of the US in education (and demonstrating continued creativity) have even great enshrinement of public education in law, with homeschooling or parochial schooling virtually unheard of.
  • Gatto's vision of a pre-public education US where everyone was free and freethinking, determined to protect liberty at all costs, is essentially National Romantic hyperbole, and ignores the torrent of histories published over the last several decades which show that the US has always been dominated by oppressive elites and monied interests in spite of its claim to equal opportunity.
  • Gatto claims that US public education teaches people to accept their own social class and stay there, but again, there are countries that show greater class mobility than the US and have an even greater enshrinement of public education.

Re:Expected (3, Interesting)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | about 4 years ago | (#32866338)

The culprit isn't necessary public education - it's the implementation of it that is practiced in the US today. Gatto has plenty of good things to say about public education as it was implemented throughout most of the 19th century and before.

Re:Expected (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 4 years ago | (#32866328)

There is a very high price to pay for a focus on conformity in today's world. Usually it means that you can, at best, be second world. The US has been getting around this by importing well-educated people, but as soon as this supply dries up (and it is in the process of doing so), that is it for "world leadership".

The obvious culprit according to the media (5, Insightful)

Myji Humoz (1535565) | about 4 years ago | (#32866032)

From the article:

"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."

One of the test questions was “How could you improve this toy to make it better and more fun to play with?”

If you went to the average TV viewer and asked them what could make their T.V. shows better, I sincerely doubt that they could give a succinct and "creative" set of ideas that would improve various shows. If you asked a video gamer for say an MMO like WoW or even a browser game like Farmville what suggestions they have to improve the games, you would probably have to gag them to get them to shut up. For video game fans, new ideas (some of them quite creative workarounds) are a dime a dozen, and the challenge is filtering them to find the best ideas for how to gear/play a character or how to run a farm.

Video games are almost perpetually linked with television by virtue of being activities in which one sits down in front of a glowing screen, but video games tend to be highly interactive with constant feedback/user response while television is nearly 100% passive. (American Idol voting doesn't count) I would agree that the increase of mindshare and time devoted to passive pursuits could decrease creativity, but I really wish that the media would, as a group, get a better idea of how different video games and television shows are. The difference between games and t.v. is the difference between using a kitchen knife to chop vegetables and using a kitchen knife to stab people, yet again, video games are taking more blame for making our kids less creative than the school systems' standardized tests and performance obsessed culture.

Nonsense. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32866344)

"Durr I want phatter WoW lewtz!!!!!!!!!!!!1111111111" isn't any more creative - probably *less* creative - then speculation on who the final cylon of the reimagined BSG was.

Cable TV? (4, Interesting)

ciggieposeur (715798) | about 4 years ago | (#32866036)

1980-1990 seems about the time cable television became more common than OTA TV. OTA TV used to be very boring for children, but cable brought Nickelodeon and the Disney channel in homes to become defacto babysitters for millions of kids.

Newsweek sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32866038)

It might clean my ass if I use it as a wipe, but that is where its usefulness ends.

Re:Newsweek sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32866376)

You don't want to do that. You might wind up giving your ass a case of herpes or something. Hey, this is Newsweek - who knows where it's been?

The inevitable result (5, Insightful)

paper tape (724398) | about 4 years ago | (#32866040)

The inevitable result of being taught to accept everything they are taught without question, rather than being taught the basics and critical thinking, is that students mostly stop asking important questions. Even if they do ask, they depend on someone else to provide "the one true answer" - because they don't have the tools to arrive at a useful answer on their own.

Scapegoat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32866048)


The misdirection is serious. (2, Interesting)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | about 4 years ago | (#32866052)

Music teaches focus. Art cannot be done without fully applying yourself. Sports teaches teamwork and pragmatic execution. Yet we cut all that and emphasize stuff in text books, as if they were bibles. No wonder creativity is stuck in a pot hole.

Anyone with any slight interest in the topic must see:
Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity? []

Re:The misdirection is serious. (2, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 4 years ago | (#32866146)

Without conformity, there is no order
Without creativity, there is no enjoyment

We need both, but "success" in society requires a minimum level of bookish competence. I think our definition of success (middle class lifestyle, as practiced in the US) has outstripped the intellectual ability of the average human. Nonetheless, we keep focusing on drilling them with facts that we think will get people into jobs which will provide them with food, shelter, healthcare, and recreation they expect. The constant race to be at the top of the list of countries who rank high in student achievement - as measured by standardized fact testing - also drives this.

Sadly, there is no way to mimic the "best" school districts for well rounded children who also perform well on tests. No matter what they do, those districts have parents who are active in their childrens' schooling. No federal or state mandate can make that happen in a district with parents who just don't care. So we put on the screws to make the kids test scores hit a specific number, regardless of the consequences. The result is what we see today.

Re:The misdirection is serious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32866412)

But seriously, making kids do sports against their will is retarded. You can learn teamwork and pragmatism elsewhere too.

CQ (5, Funny)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 4 years ago | (#32866054)

How do you measure creativity anyway?

90 for people that give all the correct answers.
90-100 for everybody that fills in answers that have nothing to do with the questions.
100-110 for those that draw pretty pixelated pictures using the multiple choice boxes.
110-120 for the people that draw pretty pictures outside the boxes.
130+ when they make the questionaire form into paper mache.

Re:CQ (1)

drewhk (1744562) | about 4 years ago | (#32866256)

140+ if you don't take the test at all.

Are tech. advances contributing? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32866070)

I wonder how much contribution the ease of information access and advanced tools have to this. A few generations ago, if you didn't know something, you had to figure it out yourself or go to the library and spend hours trying to see if someone else solved it (with much less chance of getting the answer than today).

However, with improvement in technology, it is much easier to find someone else's solution to the problem - odds are you aren't alone in your problem and someone has figured in out and disseminated their solution. If your typical problem solving techniques consists primarily of Google, how likely is it that you are prepared to use your own head when you need it?

Not saying that technology is bad, but maybe they should have given the kids access to whatever tech they wanted to solve their problem and then see how many kids run to the computer and are then able to solve these tasks.

Re:Are tech. advances contributing? (4, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 4 years ago | (#32866180)

More importantly, I suspect, stuff Just Works now. In the '80s, a typical home computer booted into a programming language. You needed a basic understanding of how it worked to be able to start a game, and a lot of children at least tried playing with the programming environment, because it was there and loading a game took 10 minutes. There was some TV to watch, but not a huge amount. Prefabricated plastic toys were common enough that parents complained that the toys they had as a child were better, but they were simple - you needed to use your imagination to have fun with them.

Around 1990, home computers started to become good enough that you could use them without any understanding, just pointing and clicking. In fact, the home computer as a market segment died around then - you had consoles (with no ability to run user-modified code) and you had computers aimed at businesses that were also sold to home users. You started getting a lot more TV aimed at children, and toys started coming with microcontrollers and 'interactive' functionality that let you borrow someone else's imagination.

For a business computer, working without user effort is a good thing. A business computer exists to make some other task easier - you don't want to be thinking about the computer, you want to be thinking about the task. For an educational computer, this is not such an advantage. If stuff doesn't work correctly, you need to use some creativity to fix it. How many people here remember the 'fun' of editing autoexec.bat and config.sys to make a game work? How many children born in the '90s did something similar? Of the two, who do you think has more of an understanding of the purpose of device drivers or of computer memory models?

Re:Are tech. advances contributing? (4, Interesting)

supercrisp (936036) | about 4 years ago | (#32866270)

Well, OK. But keep in mind your bias. Very few homes nation-wide had or could afford personal computers in the 80s. Since then, a number of technologies have proliferated (and become more affordable, to a degree) that encourage interacting with the device/medium in scripted ways: cable television, the internet, computers, computer and console games, cell phones. All these things happened at the same time that obesity began to skyrocket and (according to this article) creativity began to decline. This is also the same time when our schools began to get "back to basics" and cut programs like art, photography, and even recess. Variety is important, and moving from one screen to another doesn't cut it. Still, I'm uncertain about my own claim here, as a great deal of creativity begins at a very young age. I'm also not taking into account that the 80s marked the beginning of greatly increasing hours at work for most adults, and greater competition for jobs, as well as a tendency to spend more and more on consumer goods and service, an increase influenced by more readily available consumer credit. So much less parental involvement is possible. I say that as an often-exhausted parent. I guess, for me, it boils down to a perfect storm of impending idiocracy. I say this as an English teacher. I can see the change in the papers I've collected in the last five and ten years.

Partially tech, partially price (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 4 years ago | (#32866420)

You may be partially on to something. Many items are "too cheap to fix" now. If your TV breaks, you don't see which tube blew. If the lawnmower stops running, there's not much that's replaceable (save the entire engine). If your car or washing machine stops running, there's a good chance that fixing it would require diagnostic equipment exceeding the value of the item - you take it to get repaired or you replace it.

The commiditization of consumer items and the need to drive down prices has led to items which are not intended to be serviced by the end user (hey, Steve Jobs, I'm lookin' at you). There is little need for problem solving on a day to day basis.

Bad Premise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32866078)

"With intelligence, there is a phenomenon called the Flynn effect — each generation, scores go up about 10 points. Enriched environments are making kids smarter."

No... the IQ test is a normalized test meaning that the median score is always 100, the variance is always 10.

Re:Bad Premise? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 4 years ago | (#32866342)

But what are the ADHD meds addicted, Sony/MS playing, testing trained normalised spenders really doing?
Enriched environments just seem to make them buy more/better escapist junk, not giving them the skills to design it.
They can enjoy every surface distraction and consume but underneath is a real disconnect.

we play differently now (2, Insightful)

jsepeta (412566) | about 4 years ago | (#32866088)

rather than playing using our imaginations, most kids prefer to watch tv or play video games. both of these activities are the act of media Consumption, and not of using their own imagination. when i was a kid (now i sound like an old man), my folks would kick my brother and i out of the house and tell us to play until supper time. this meant playing cops and robbers or army man or explorer or maybe some baseball and football. aside from sports, we had to use our imagination a lot - LARPing for normals. of course by the time i was 15 I preferred playing D&D and reading books, which meant less time outside and more time PRETENDING and using my imagination.

that's why I started playing D&D with my daughter when she turned 8. she loves to read and we have a lot of fun in our campaign. we're always using our imaginations when we play, as opposed to when she's sitting at the computer playing her FLASH games.

Re:we play differently now (1)

Moryath (553296) | about 4 years ago | (#32866440)

I really hope you're using an open-ended version of the game, a la 2nd Edition, and not bothering to stick miniatures and a square map all over the table. Let her use her imagination to see the battles, too.

with more convergent thinking... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32866114)

There is less divergent thinking!

In other news, with more kids surfing the Internet, playing video games, and texting each other on their phones, researchers have found less time is being spent actively engaged in baseball and other sports!

The papers will be presented in this summer's conference in southern France. Follow-up studies backed by a NSA grants will be needed to validate these conclusions and explore their ramifications.

Probably because... (5, Insightful)

neongrau (1032968) | about 4 years ago | (#32866118)

especially in the last years parents pumping their kids full of behavior adjusting drugs? Ritalin maybe?

Video Games? (1, Insightful)

tthomas48 (180798) | about 4 years ago | (#32866130)

Video Games and TV are the same. Video Games may require more creativity than TV, but it's substantially less than anything else. I'm a programmer by trade and I program and write plays in my free time. Video Games are a more active vegging than watching TV, but they're still something I do when I've burned out my creative capacity for the night, not something that uses that capacity.

Re:Video Games? (2, Insightful)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | about 4 years ago | (#32866184)

Most computer games do not require creativity. They require quick reflexes and/or the ability to do mindless actions repeatedly for little reward.

Re:Video Games? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 4 years ago | (#32866350)

Perfect to fly drones on speed on day?

Re:Video Games? (1)

wfolta (603698) | about 4 years ago | (#32866456)

Most computer games do not require creativity. They require quick reflexes and/or the ability to do mindless actions repeatedly for little reward.

Depends on the game. Yes, leveling your fifth WOW character involves a lot of repetition. On the other hand, fighting against an opposing team in Team Forterss 2 involves a lot of learning and being clever.

The main problem, I think, is time on task and focus. You need to spend time on a task to get good at it, and if you spend that time on TV and games, you won't master other, more important tasks. And if you don't master any tasks, you won't have the freedom to be creative in them.

Also, I would posit that TV, games, the web, all reward short attention spans, and it takes deeper thinking to be creative. ("Eureaka" moments don't just happen: they are preceded by a lot of thinking.)

Last, free time allows boredom and the natural remedy to boredom is imagination and creativity. Which we often shirt-circuit today with TV and games.

Re:Video Games? (1)

Krneki (1192201) | about 4 years ago | (#32866214)

Video Games and TV are the same. Video Games may require more creativity than TV, but it's substantially less than anything else. I'm a programmer by trade and I program and write plays in my free time. Video Games are a more active vegging than watching TV, but they're still something I do when I've burned out my creative capacity for the night, not something that uses that capacity.

Depends on the video game, what you are watching and the effort you put in to understand the situation.

Re:Video Games? (1)

tthomas48 (180798) | about 4 years ago | (#32866326)

Really? Because I find even foreign art house movies which may require total attention and thought, don't rival a creative endeavor in the least.

What is something on TV or in a video game you would categorize as requiring actual creative work to follow?

These tests are bullshit (3, Insightful)

drewhk (1744562) | about 4 years ago | (#32866132)

Creativity tests... heh. Most of these tests are completely ridiculous.

I remember one of these tests where totally stupid answers were given points, just because they are "original". I hate people that think of themselves as "creative", yet, they cannot come up with something PRACTICALLY USEFUL. You can be "very original" and "totally irrelevant" at the same time. For me, creativity means original and usable (in a broad sense -- amusing, entertaining, enthralling, etc count as useful, too).

I hate even more those people that cry "all these rules just hamper my creativity". Again, bullshit! Limitations often stimulate creativity. Puzzles are all about limits on the solution space. Many writers, painters, poems made up artificial limits for themselves, just to see, what can they do within those limitations. Also, any engineer has to think inside some box, as the final result has to be useful and relevant to the problem at hand. Physicists are limited by the laws of nature -- still, many physicists are very creative -- especially because they have to use seemingly limiting laws to their benefit. Hacking is also a great example where the whole process is about seemingly bending the limits, but you really stay inside them, you just discover ways that were unexpected to be existing inside that "box". Logic is also a limitation. Are you original just because you deny logic? Sometimes yes (in these cases you end up with an augmented logic), but most of the times, no.

Rant off.

Re:These tests are bullshit (2, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | about 4 years ago | (#32866224)

I think that currently the most frequently bumped against limits are limits imposed by structures of authority. Frequently these limits are arbitrary, capricious and imposed post-hoc, and their violation comes with severe punishments. I think those kinds of limits are dampening rather than inspirational.

Re:These tests are bullshit (3, Insightful)

drewhk (1744562) | about 4 years ago | (#32866296)

"Frequently these limits are arbitrary, capricious and imposed post-hoc, and their violation comes with severe punishments."

Yes, those limits are bad.

But many of the whiners complain about limitations that are not like this. I knew people crying about mathematics problems as they are "hampering their creativity", but in fact, they were just not smart enough to solve the problem. Many of these people think about arts as the most creative thing on earth. While arts involve a lot of creativity, so does engineering.

Re:These tests are bullshit (1)

chichilalescu (1647065) | about 4 years ago | (#32866446)

you should read the article. I don't think their tests are bullshit, and they explain in detail what they understand by "creative". They also give a very good example of how to get kids to be creative --- a school where kids were asked to solve a problem, and they liked it.

And yes, limitations stimulate creativity. But not if you don't see the limitations. How can you expect kids who don't need to use their imagination to realize that learning can be much more than data retention?

And another fact: the same tests were given in the US and in the rest of the world. As I understand it from the article, the rest of the world did better. That means that the test is not completely ridiculous, because it sees a difference between specific sets of kids.

Its for the Childs Safety (3, Insightful)

arthurpaliden (939626) | about 4 years ago | (#32866138)

In order to ensure childres safety they are placed and encuraged stay in secuer safe 'creative' environments. Classic example, who here below tha age of 50 has every seen or even played with a 'real' chemistry set.

Re:Its for the Childs Safety (1)

neongrau (1032968) | about 4 years ago | (#32866150)

me (33), shortly afterwards my chemistry grades went from barely average to A

Re:Its for the Childs Safety (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32866362)

I (22) had one.
Are you seriously asking this question on Slashdot?

I blame TV! (5, Insightful)

Elrac (314784) | about 4 years ago | (#32866144)

If some evil mad scientist were to undertake building a device to systematically destroy creative thinking in humans, I doubt he could do better than the TV programming of this past decade.

I blame human nature (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 4 years ago | (#32866384)

The TV is just pandering to base human nature. Most people seem to like to see others fail, and to laugh at them. It's where reality TV got it's hold, but no more differently than the sit coms or soaps. Just as everyone slows down at a traffic accident - not to see if they can help, but to see the carnage - humans seem to revel in the failures of others.

Re:I blame TV! (1)

buddyglass (925859) | about 4 years ago | (#32866432)

While I agree with you that kids TV programming sucks...that's been the case long as I can remember. I find that explanation a little lacking for the purposes of explaining the drop in creativity starting in 1990. Maybe TV usage has increased significantly since then. But I doubt it.

Welcome to the Nanny State (4, Insightful)

Monsieur Canard (766354) | about 4 years ago | (#32866168)

This is yet another example of the dangers inherent in over-parenting. "Don't climb that tree!" "Don't find out what dirt tastes like!" "Don't take the toy apart!"

This naturally evolves into the adult version. "Don't take pictures of that bridge!" "Don't try to find out what's behind that wall!" "Don't question anything your leaders tell you!"

It's all part of the plan.

Re:Welcome to the Nanny State (1)

chichilalescu (1647065) | about 4 years ago | (#32866478)

For me, the fact that there was a debate on teaching "Intelligent design" alongside evolution was a big sign that something was wrong with the US system.
But, to tell you the truth, I don't think there's any plan. If there was, it would be the same in the EU, and it's not. If it does become the same, I'm moving to Africa. People there are too poor to be stupid.

Rote Teaching, No Child Left Behind (3, Insightful)

Tisha_AH (600987) | about 4 years ago | (#32866174)

Education in America today is focused almost exclusively on memorizing the tests that will be used to determine school performance. Little emphasis is placed upon creative thinking, deductive logic or expression.

It is no surprise that we are turning out "trained rats" who can perform a specific set of tasks to pass a test but do not have adequate skills to function in a society where creativity is the driving force for progress.

Re:Rote Teaching, No Child Left Behind (2, Insightful)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | about 4 years ago | (#32866248)

If teachers are teaching to the test rather than teaching the children to think, then the fault is lies in the teacher.

What you don't seem to know is that social promotion and teaching to the lowest common denominator are even worse than what you are describing. Children don't fail, and are not held back. No, an education is no where near as important as self-esteem.

I remember a time when children didn't have to make any effort at all. I remember the stories of social promotion leading to illiterate high school graduates. Even to day, many students have no respect for their teachers and have no problem disrupting class for everyone solely because they don't want to learn.

We live in a society that does not value intelligence, full of people who do not value an education any where near as much as they value good grades and a diploma, even if they are neither earned nor deserved.

This does not surprise me (4, Interesting)

Omnifarious (11933) | about 4 years ago | (#32866194)

I have noticed a distinct trend towards authoritarianism in American culture in the past 20 years. And this has been most especially pronounced in schools. Authoritarianism and creativity are at direct odds with each other.

My own HS started making changes shortly after I graduated in 1989. They started restricting student's ability to go off campus during the day. And I haven't really gone back to find out what else has changed, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's a lot more locked down than when I went.

I think America became afraid of its young people. There was this idea that young people were becoming increasingly violent and uncontrollable. For example, stories of cold-blooded killings and gang membership became the impetus for changing the laws so it was much more likely juveniles would be prosecuted as adults.

But I think there was more to it than that, and I'm not completely sure where the wrong turn was taken or what it was.

Just Think-Of-The-Children(R) (4, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 4 years ago | (#32866348)

The controls were put in place mainly to shield the schools from litigation. Schools don't have BP-style resources, so every dollar counts. Let's face it, the average family can't afford to send their kids to school (it's about $10k/student for public, somewhete between $17k-20k for private), so there's not going to be any new influx of cash in schools.

Some of the controls (I got out of HS in 87) were to prevent vandalism/waste - like making the copier off limits to students, though my best friend in HS and I were the only two, save the principal, who could fix minor problems with it. Much of it stems from very rare, isolated cases of injury/loss/death during school hours while the students were not accounted for. There is no wrath like a parent who has lost a child. When you have to have a perfect safety record with several thousand unpredictable teens 180 days out of the year, things get a little crazy.

We're not afraid of them, per se, but afraid something will happen to them. A college student gets drunk and falls out of a 4th story window to her death, so the college welds all of the windows shut. An appropriate response? To the parents who no longer have a daughter it would have prevented her death. Won't you think of the children?

Comprehension and hunger to achieve sth (3, Insightful)

drolli (522659) | about 4 years ago | (#32866226)

I grew up in a surrounding which i pretty much could understand (lets exclude politics here) at age 10. I was presented with toys which you can use to build sth yourself (lego bricks, later lego technics, electronics experimental kits). I was not allowed to watch television unsupervised and in average maybe watched 30 minutes per day. I helped renovate the parents house and played outside in the forest. When i started to play computer games i knew how they were programmed. Which means that for me the fun and the possibilities to do sth depended on and grew with comprehending the world and finding creative ways to use this understanding. To me it seems that kids today are raised under a different paradigm: give them an extreme amount of toys which are completely incomprehensible - and no level on comprehension which the kid could achieve will enable it to reshape this toy. An DVD player will never do anything else. Even computer are castrated nowadays (Hello, who of us did not start programming with typing something on the C128 for curiosity) to be game-consoles only. Electronics kit can never come close - even qualitatively - to the millions of gadgets surrounding us, I dont even want to talk about the sense of security which would forbid that children modify their bikes. Nothing which you paint, write, do, will compare to the best amateur thing you find on the internet. So let me formulate that way: we have raised the level of intelligence and knowledge required before creativity pays of visibly to a level not achievable for most of the kids.

The importance of concentration (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | about 4 years ago | (#32866228)

From the article:

During improvisation, the highly trained music majors used their brains in a way the nonmusicians could not: they deactivated their right-temporoparietal junction. Normally, the r-TPJ reads incoming stimuli, sorting the stream for relevance. By turning that off, the musicians blocked out all distraction. They hit an extra gear of concentration, allowing them to work with the notes and create music spontaneously.

This reminds me of a recent article [] about lucid dreaming:

People who focus single-mindedly on a task during the day, be it a computer game or playing a musical instrument, are more likely to experience lucid dreams

I'm more a musician than a gamer, but I occasionally play a fast-paced classic such as Llamatron, in order to get into a particular kind of focused mood. For example, after a lazy day, I might use the game to crank up my brain for some academic work that needs to get done. Playing music gets me into a different kind of focus, more relaxed usually, but the end result is mostly the same.

So perhaps creativity has a lot to do with the ability to focus, and it is easy to see why it has become more difficult in the recent decades. The article talks about divergent and convergent thinking, which to me sound like a metacognitive skill, an ability to direct your thinking.

On another note, before reading the article, the summary gave the idea that CQ levels are falling as IQ rises. This was not as straightforward as described in the article, but I still cannot help thinking that people are becoming more computer-like.

It's been said by many experts (1)

xirvin (1853380) | about 4 years ago | (#32866238)

The first time I heard it was with Sir Ken Robinson at a Ted conference. I recommend everyone to watch it. His thesis is that creativity is as important as literacy and we should treat it with the same importance. I highly recommend everyone to watch the presentation. []

Re:It's been said by many experts (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | about 4 years ago | (#32866274)

The problem with his thesis is that most people do not care about literacy as much as they care about the appearance of literacy. Parents don't care if their children can read and understand what they have read nor do they care if their child can actually solve a mathematics problem. Parents only care that their child get a good grade, even if the grade is not deserved.

That is why there are so many idiots in the world today.

Re:It's been said by many experts (1)

buddyglass (925859) | about 4 years ago | (#32866414)

Then why did we only start seeing a decline in 1990? Did the school system change significantly in the mid-to-late 1980s?

Let me get this straight (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32866240)

"from kindergarten through sixth grade — for whom the decline is 'most serious."

So Hollywood is hiring kindergarteners to write and direct blockbuster films?

Here's your nexus of un-creativity right here: (1)

macraig (621737) | about 4 years ago | (#32866266)

"... found [that] creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990.

Quite coincidentally, The Simpsons debuted in 1989. Hmmmm....

I'd like to respond (1)

Organic Brain Damage (863655) | about 4 years ago | (#32866294)

to this, but I just can't think of anything creative to say about it.

Beatings will continue until morale improves! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32866298)

More copyrights! more patents! We must teach the children that sharing ideas or being inspired by prior work are crimes!

lol (1)

Yaos (804128) | about 4 years ago | (#32866314)

We will determine your creativity index using this creativity standardized test, you have 1 hour. BEGIN!

Necessity is the mother of invention (4, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about 4 years ago | (#32866318)

It was around 1980 that everything started to "just work". Cars, TV sets and so on became increasingly reliable and standardised. Food came increasingly pre-packed and pre-prepared. People simply do not need to be inventive and curious in order to get things done, in fact, it's often illegal; good luck with modifying a car nowadays. At the very least your insurance will be invalidated. On the rare occasion something goes wrong, scrap and replace or call a specialist.

I've sometimes thought, looking back at my own career in engineering, that my problem solving ability has got in the way of promotion. It's actually easier and more effective to find someone else to fix the problem, or persuade management that the problem doesn't need fixing (kill the product, for instance). And, if you aren't spending a lot of time on the 98% of perspiration that follows the 2% of inspiration, you have time to play golf with the boss and network your next promotion.

I think the rot really set in when the word "consumer" became a generic term for everybody. Umberto Eco made this point once, showing how industrial exhibitions had gone from showcasing technology (buy one of these and you can make whatever you can imagine) to showcasing products (buy one of these and your life as a consumer will be better.)

Schools only reflect society. If teachers are mostly consumers, they won't see the value of (genuine) creativity.

GOML test, really (2, Funny)

bytesex (112972) | about 4 years ago | (#32866332)

This sounds like a test developed by baby boomers to test baby-boomerishness in people. It's the get-of-my-lawn test.

Obvious (1)

lennier1 (264730) | about 4 years ago | (#32866354)

Just look at the entertainment industry.
Nowadays the best they can do are remakes of remakes of remakes.

Obviously (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32866424)

Everything has been already invented. There is nothing more to invent.

Yeah, but what about the other 95% (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 4 years ago | (#32866452)

taken by millions worldwide in 50 languages

So in one country the results from a single test have dropped a bit. That's basically just a single data point. Without knowing what's happening to everyone else, who's not american there's very little worth talking about, If it was the whole population of the planet showing signs of decreased creativity then there could be something to worry about. Without all those other comparative data this test tells us nothing.

The system is set up that way!!! (1)

malchus842 (741252) | about 4 years ago | (#32866474)

Our educational system is designed to foster corporatism, mediocrity, and blind submission to authority. Creative thinking and action are purposely suppressed and individualism is held out to be evil. The real question is, why would anyone be surprised?
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