Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Genius of Creativity

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We hail them as innovators, creators, music-makers, and even geniuses, but what is this group of people we call creative? How did they become so innovative, so inventive? Why is this uniqueness held so highly among millions today? The answer lies in the fact that creative people are the foundation of the world we live in. They created countries, things we now know as necessities, and have enthralled us with beautiful artwork and music. It’s no wonder the distinction of “creative” is so sought out today. Yet, our school systems are hindering children from becoming the creative geniuses some are meant to be. Instead of influencing this trait, we are doing the opposite. This will hurt future generations and the world we live in. With students being the world’s tomorrow, everything must be done to make sure the resources and environments they need to flourish in our society are provided. Otherwise, the world’s tomorrow will be a very despairing place.

There are as many definitions for creativity as there are ways to bake a cake. Each definition isn’t exactly wrong; it just gives you a different taste. Psychologist J.E. Drevdahl believes creativity is, “the capacity of a person to produce a composition, product, or an idea essentially new or novel.” Professor A.E. Brown of the Organizational Leadership & Supervision defines creativity as, “the process resulting in novel work accepted as tenable, useful, or satisfying at some point in time.” Marvin Bartel, a professor of art at Goshen College, had some very insightful words to say about creativity in his essay Some Thoughts about Creativity in Education. He believes that personality and attitude are more important than native ability when it concerns creativity. The American Heritage® Dictionary defines creativity as “Being characterized by originality or expressiveness.” Charles Cave, software designer and creator of ‘Creativity Web’, believes creativity is “the ability to take existing objects and combine them in different ways for new purposes.” A general summary of all these would lead to the ability to create something innovative, whether in mind or space.

Intelligence is another matter completely. Through an engineer’s eyes, like those of Walter Fritz, author of Intelligent Systems and their Societies and a mechanical engineer who’s done in depth studies on artificial intelligence, intelligence is, “a systems level of performance in reaching its objectives.” A biologist of the behaviorist school once said, The essence of intelligence is the adequate response to a stimulus. Keep in mind though that adequate is related to the objectives of the individual being (Fritz). Going back to Fritz’s artificial intelligence, he believes that intelligence is measured by, “the comparison of the relative speed of reaching its objective in the same situation.” This not only applies to artificial intelligence, but also that of human intelligence. The American Heritage® Dictionary defines intelligence as, “The capacity to acquire and apply knowledge.” So, intelligence could be defined as the ability to acquire knowledge and use it.

Creativity may have advantages that affect intelligence, but, in the words of Bartel, “Creativity is not the same as intelligence.” He notes that highly creative people who are successful usually have a higher than average intelligence, but the connection is not direct (Bartel). Michael Michalko, an author in the field of creativity, notes that

“After considerable debate initiated in the 1960s by psychologist Joy P. Guilford, who called for a scientific focus on creativity, psychologists concluded that creativity is not the same as intelligence. An individual can be far more creative than intelligent, or far more intelligent than creative.” (Michalko)

While intelligence does have an affect on student’s abilities, it does not play the crucial role.

Another area of discussion is the “creative genius”. Many view this as the child born with supernatural creativeness, as if somehow a person is just “blessed by God” with this ability. Many studies in the field say this is very untrue. A genius is not born, it is created. And while intelligence and creativity are on opposite ends of the spectrum, genius and creativity go hand in hand.

In Michalko’s essay 'Thinking Like a Genius', eight strategies used by the super creative, from Aristotle and Leonardo to Einstein and Edison, he displays how people such as Darwin and Michelangelo have over the years harnessed their “genius”, and how even if we can’t get in touch with this power, we can use the principles behind it. How in touch you become with your creative genius can very well influence how successful you become in life.

The advantages of the creative genius are amazingly numbered. Michalko says how geniuses think, “productively, not reproductively.” In other words, they ask themselves how many times they could look at a problem, and how many ways could they answer it to receive as many answers as possible. He also states how geniuses are productive, they never stop trying to be better at what they do, or they just never stop. Thomas Edison held 1,0 patents, still the record today, Mozart produced more than six hundred pieces of music, and Einstein, although well known for his paper on relativity, wrote over two hundred and forty-eight other papers (Michalko). Not only do they hold true to Michalko’s characteristics, they also possess qualities such as commitment, a positive attitude, and imagination, as well as many others (Buzan).

Knowing the advantages of having creativity opens many doors to what it can do for a student. Commitment and a continual striving for the best keeps a student focused and wanting to learn more, and a child’s genius allows thinking “outside” the box, and to explore new areas to learn more about the world around them. Being creative allows a student to not only excel in studies, but also in activities outside of school. Being an artist, musician, or computer “genius” opens many doors to opportunities out of school, along with recognition while in. Another attribute associated with being creative is having a positive attitude, one that keeps adolescents out of trouble and willing to do what is right. With the many positive affects of creativity in the student, it becomes surprising why school systems aren’t encouraging it more.

The school systems of America are constantly creating more ways to hinder this attribute. Environments and teaching affect creativity to the “nth” degree. Administration is pushing conformity among students to keep them in line, the five-paragraph essay has become the standard for good grades (Gedalius, Pastor), and standardized testing has limited our children’s ability to perform outside of the multiple guess realm (Hynes). We have eliminated all forms of expression and free will in our school systems. Dress codes have even cut students off from being able to express their characters through dress. This has dramatically affected students for the worst. Grades have fallen and schools are pushing less creative students out their doors (Hynes). It has become a tragedy to see what this world will become after years of schools literally sucking the creativity out of students.

A major issue of the day is standardized testing. Many states, such as Florida, have taken this concept farther than it was ever meant to be. Our children’s futures are being based a test that measures how well they take tests. They sit in a desk for a number of hours and answer questions that tell us virtually nothing about our children. Singer and songwriter Bill Harley agrees. “You cannot measure a love for learning and a joy of knowledge or a passion for life. You can’t measure those things with a standardized test. But you sure can kill them,” he says. CEO of Precision Valve & Automation Halfmoon Anthony Hynes has interviewed many prospective employees over the years with some of the highest GPA’s, most congratulated honors, and most honorable awards for their intelligences and came to one conclusion  taking tests is all they could do (Hynes). While not only giving a poor measurement of a child’s abilities, standardized testing also hinders them.

Florida’s FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) is a prime example of this. Students take this test third through tenth grade, and later if they don’t pass the years before. Schools have taken this test to such an extreme that there are actually classes that teach how to take the test. In 2000, there were approximately seventy-five juniors in Martin County High School that hadn’t passed the test yet, so they were pulled from an elective or two and placed in FCAT remedial classes to prepare them for their next chance (Shah, Marra). Although Florida schools are trying help students while weeding out who deserve to pass and who don’t, they have hindered students to such a point that in 2000, only 58% passed the reading sections (Florida Department of Education). Students are bombarded with this the moment they enter high school. Students don’t just hate the test because it is “a test”, but also because of the big deal made about it. By the time the test comes, they don’t care about passing, they care about getting it over with. Clay Ferrara, a fifteen-year-old student from South Fork High understands they pain. It gets to be a little much when everyone pounds it into your head, Ferrara says (Shah, Marra).

A major issue with the FCAT has been the controversial “five-paragraph essay”. The writing section of the test, although not taught as a rule, requires it. It has a specific form, never to be tampered with, that limits a child. Students are not given the chance to express themselves. They are also hindered by the fact that they have never been taught anything else. Alonzo High Senior Brittany Parlor never realized before taking an Advanced Placement English class that you could write more than five paragraphs in an essay, nor any idea what a thesis statement was (Gedalius, Pastor). This hindered her creativity, her ability to think outside the box. She never knew she was actually allowed to.

Students are becoming everything that the work force doesn’t need. With schools turning out more and more non-creative students, companies are having a harder time finding the employees they need. Employers in this technologically and money driven society are looking for people who are innovative and have what it takes to make their company better than it already is. To Mike Schalit, award winning creative director of the advertising agency Network BBDO, there is no difference between an advert who is creative and one who is effective. “Creativity is effectiveness,” are his exact words (“Creativity is the Bottom Line” Editorial). If schools are not producing students with creativity, then schools are not producing students with effectiveness, the type of students that people like Schalit and Hynes are constantly searching for.

Our problem has been laid out in front of us. Schools are turning out more and more students without the ability to be creative. It’s like what Bill Harley says, “Students - our children, our kids - spend the majority of their long school day serving the institutions they attend.” Schools are teaching the rules, the formula, to survive school, when in fact they should be teaching the rules to survive life outside the safe doors of high school. It’s like what Hynes says of his interviewees, “These people, although clearly smart, had little in the way of communication skills, common sense, or intuition. Their life experiences were limited, and they were of little value to an employer.” The “people” that Hynes speaks of graduated with honors out of an American school, one that obviously taught nothing more than the formula to pass. “In my experience, education is not designed to promote creativity,” Dr. Ken Robinson, world-renowned speaker and leading force in the development of creativity and human resources says, “It’s pretty much designed to do the opposite.” (Biederman )

There are many reasons for why creative people are so sought out in this world today. They have determination, goals, objective, intuition, and the ability to see more than just what is laid in front of them. It is a pity that the numbers of these geniuses are declining. These people may not be the most intelligent, have the highest IQs, or make a 1600 on the SAT, but they hold the key to bringing this world to new heights. Creativity should be the goal of students, teachers, and administrators around the world today, not high grades on a test that measures little more than how well you take a test. We need more Einstiens, Aristotles, and Mozarts to keep everything we know and love in our world today alive.

Biederman, Patricia Ward. “Los Angeles Actor John Cleese to Probe Role of Creativity.”

Los Angeles Times 1 January 2000.

“Creativity is the Bottom Line.” Africa News Service. 7 February 2000.

”FCAT SSS Reading and Mathematics Scores Statewide Comparison for 2001/2002.”

Florida Department of Education 2000.


Fritz, Walter. Intelligent Systems and their Societies. New Horizons Press.

Gedalius, Ellen, and, Pastor, Courtney Cairns. “FCAT Writing Formula Abbreviated.”

The Tampa Tribune 10 February 2000.

Hynes, Anthony. “Good test-takers aren’t always creative thinkers.”

Time Union (Albany) 7 February 2000

Marra, Andrew, and Shah, Nirvi. “Some Students, Teachers Differ on Value of Test.”

Palm Beach Post 10 March 2000.

Marshall, Nancy. “Standardized Tests in Public Education.” Weekly Edition (NPR), June 2001.

Michalko, Michael. “Thinking Like a Genius Eight strategies used by the super creative, from Aristotle and Leonardo to Einstein and Edison.” The Futurist May 18.

Wainaina, Binyavanga. “Time to Move Beyond Mental Slavery.” Africa News Service, January 2000.

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