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The New American Epidemic: Creative Deficiency

(The cost of lost creativity)

by Gregg Palazzolo | April 2015

“For the first time, research shows that American creativity is declining.” Thus begins a recent cover story by Newsweek reporting the latest results from tests of our nation’s “creativity quotient” (CQ). The tests were designed by Ellis Paul Torrance and are widely accepted as the best way to measure CQ. Children who have scored highly on the Torrance test in years past have become innovators, authors, entrepreneurs, software developers, diplomats, and college presidents.

Recently, however, researchers at William and Mary analyzed over 300,000 Torrance* scores and observed that creativity has been steadily on the rise. That is, until 1990. Over the last 20 years, CQ scores have tumbled.

“With intelligence, there is a phenomenon called the Flynn effect—each generation, scores go up about 10 points. Enriched environments are making kids smarter,” Newsweek informs. “With creativity, a reverse trend has been identified and is being reported for the first time here: American creativity scores are falling.”

What’s causing the drop off? According to Newsweek, technology and education are particularly egregious offenders. At home, kids spend more time watching television and playing video games; at school, our educational system is depriving our youth of the proper creative atmospheric conditions. Both are not newly suspected, but are indicators within the discussion of the creative deficiency issue.

Technology has become a the go to target of many cultural development watchdogs. In recent years, we’ve seen a barrage of criticism regarding video games, television viewership, internet absorption, and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Some claim that the regulatory program’s testing and accountability techniques have become part of the problem. In other countries from Europe, China to Great Britain are introducing “idea generation” as a key prerequisite of public education. While, the American system is zeroed in on quantifiable results and thus leaves a pittance for creative stimuli. If the accounts are correct, we are methodically developing our kids to become creatively deficient.

This trend may not seem significant until you consider the paramount importance of creativity to humanities progress. Without creativity, we can’t develop new ways of thinking or find solutions to problems. If creativity continues to evaporate, our art, music, medicine, and literature will flail. Businesses and creative solutions oriented cultures in other parts of the world will quickly bypass us. A recent IBM Poll reported that over 60% of CEOs recognize that creativity is the most important leadership quality.

So, who wants to sketch, think and dream today?