Friday, November 5, 2010

your creative brain, and mine.

It's a little ironic that I'm researching this post's topic on the internet and spending time laying here on the couch while on the computer, but when I'm confined to this space and this position, for the most part, what else can I do? (see previous post re: my horrible headache)

And what is the topic? you ask... It's creativity! Yesterday I heard a brief mention of a study concluding that creativity is decreasing in our society on MPR (which does not surprise me in the least, unfortunately). Today, while struggling to drive home from dropping Tyler off at work, I heard more of the story. You can hear the entire story here and I encourage you to do so!

I'll give a quick summary, in my own words, with some of my own opinions and experiences thrown in. But first off I must mention that what I learned did nothing but encourage me to homeschool our children, limit computer time, possibly get rid of the television all together, and most likely not encourage video game or computer game use (though I'm sure Tyler has different opinions on that one!).

This study began in the 1950's by measuring the Creativity Quotient of children in Minnesota. The study has followed most of them throughout the past 50 years. I believe not too long ago another group of children was screened and there was a significant difference in their total amount of creativity. In case you're wondering the basic definition of creativity used here is to create something new based on ideas currently given or experiences pulled from memories which is useful and potentially solves a problem. Creativity is not simply for media artists but is found in all areas that require significant thought and problem solving. It is not yet known if the least creative of these kids have reduced scores, if the most creative have reduced scores, or if the entire group seems to have declining Creativity Quotient scores.

It is currently theorized that the decline is due to an increase in "screen time" (computers, televisions, video games, etc.) and a dependency on standardized testing. Both would make sense to me.

"Screen time", for the most part, decreases your use of imagination, skills, and problem solving abilities. Yes, there are many games out there that require you to make choices (role playing games) but you're confined to the game, to a set of predetermined rules, and you can only do what the game allows. That causes you to work inside a teeny tiny box.

In addition to an increase in "screen time" but along similar lines I have noticed an increase in all types of rule based, predetermined outcome, games. No longer are kids creating with crayons, building blocks, and sticks, they are following rules. How about we color on a piece of blank paper rather than in a coloring book? And if we're going to color in a coloring book I personally think its okay to scribble on top, color outside of the lines, or do whatever the artist thinks is best. I've noticed a recent difference in play between Tyler and myself. We both grew up with Legos as did most people who are our age. I had the big bins of random colors and sizes and shapes. Tyler and his brother had boxes with pieces for space ships, boats, and other things. The difference between these things is huge, in my opinion. With my Legos I built houses, mostly. I did not look at a map or a picture or a set of instructions - I created based on what I wanted to see. I had color schemes to my houses, logical floor plans, and landscaping. I also had a great time pushing them off the table when I was done building. :) On the other hand, Tyler's Legos allowed him to build what a set of instructions told him. Yes, they were able to play with those things after building them, but for the most part the play is confined to the theme that the designer of that Lego set created. The creativity was found in the designer of the theme, not in the child. I want our kids to build things with blocks, paper, glue, sticks, rocks, and leaves. I don't want them to simply push a bottom to get a desired outcome or to follow a map to get sucked into predetermined structured play. I want to foster creativity and problem solving. Of course I know that following maps and directions is a useful skill and it's not something that will be ignored but I want to do more than that.

Speaking of maps, I want to encourage our kids to look at a map while we're on family vacations just like I did when I was young. I have a great sense of direction now and little fear of trying out different routes. I don't want to raise kids who rely on GPS and Google maps to get to a destination. If we continue to not use these types of skills and parts of our brains I fear that we'll loose it all together. Maybe I'm being drastic but I want to raise kids who can think. No offense to you GPS users out there... I know some of your are just terrible at directions and that's the way it is. But there are far too many people who are perfectly capable at figuring out how to get to their friend's house but they rely on the GPS instead. Use it or loose it, right?

And as for standardized testing, I can also see how that may hinder creativity. From what I hear it sounds like teachers and more and more required to "teach for the test" as they want their students and their schools to perform well. But not everyone learns that way and life is not a test. It seems like going too far in that direction may create perfect little test takers but horrible little problem solvers. But I'm not a teacher and I haven't been in school for a while, so I could be completely mistaken. But I do know that I was taught in high school for the ACT and SAT tests. I learned in college specifically for exams. And I don't remember too much of those things now, because life is not like that. Life is a bit more hands on, from what I've experienced.

Now I should get on to doing something somewhat creative. :)


  1. I'm catching up on your blog today. I read this post a long time ago and wanted to tell you I'm so glad you're raising our first grandchild! You're gonna be a great mom and homeschooler! I'll be praying that Ty will be agreeable to limited/no TV!

  2. Thank you for the compliments. :) I'm pretty sure that Tyler is as into the limited/no TV as I am... which is great!