‘Kids’ Freedom Has Declined, So Has Their Creativity, According To Researchers

Are schoolchildren becoming less creative? And if they are, what is the reason behind that? 

According to a study conducted by Dr. Kyung Hee Kim, professor of education at the College of William and Mary, there is a continuous decline in children’s creativity.

Through the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking(TTCT), Dr. Kim discovered that American students’ levels of imagination began to decline in the 1980s. Unfortunately, they have continued to sing ever since. The downturn can be recognized in the kids’ tendency to be “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.”

Overall, it was concluded that there is a decline in all the aspects of children’s creativity.

However, the most severe drop was evaluated in Creative Elaboration – a process in which creativity is used to expand knowledge by new ideas without the need for new information input. This was revealed by some quite shocking results: Over 85% of schoolchildren in 2008 had lower Elaboration scores on the TTCT than the average child in 1984.  Dr. Kim, herself, calls this disturbing tendency a “creativity crisis.” 

The Torrance Tests were established back in the 1950s by E. Paul Torrance. At the time, he was a professor at the University of Minnesota. He firmly believed that creativity was the central variable underlying personal achievement and adaptiveness. The professor came to this realization while working with fighter pilots in the Air Force.

But how can someone measure imagination? Well, Torrance had it figured out. 

His tests include various kinds of stimuli that provoke the test-takers to take action. For instance, in one of the tests, the stimuli are marks on paper, including a curved line or a set of parallel lines and circles. The participants must draw something that combines those figures in a creative way. The scores depend on the originality, meaningfulness, and humor of the test-taker.

Apart from inventiveness, the TTCT tests also measure long-term personal success. Statistically, there is a significant correlation between the children’s scores and their further development as adults. Therefore, the tests can serve as a lifetime achievement predictor.

What’s more, they have even proved to be better at foretelling a student’s path than IQ, high-school grades, or peer judgments. Unfortunately, this implies that the severe decline in the schoolchildren’s scores on the tests is alarming.

Why did the children become less creative? 

Peter Gray, Ph.D., a research professor at Boston College, says that the reason for the ‘creativity crisis’ is the lack of freedom today’s kids have access to. According to Gray, society has been “suppressing children’s freedom to ever-greater extents” over the last few decades. He explains:

“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.”

The Boston College professor also notes the current educational system as a crucial factor for the decrease in schoolchildren’s creativity. He points out the fact that the system punishes kids for daring to be different and gives them little to no free time to explore.

Do you agree with Peter Grey? Could you say that today’s children are less creative than those who grew up in the 1980s? Let us know in the comment section!

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