Two researchers studying the creative problem-solving abilities of American school-aged youth found that our education system is harming, not growing the abilities of our youth. The book Breakpoint and Beyond: Mastering the Future Today contains their findings.
Dr. George Land and Beth Jarman were commissioned by NASA to help the space agency identify and develop creative talent. The two were tasked to research school children in an attempt to identify creative individuals from which the agency could pick to help with their many products. In a recent TED talk, Land described his team’s surprising findings on the education system which are nothing short of shocking.
It seems American schoolchildren lose their ability to think creatively over time. As students enter their educational journey, they retain most of their abilities to think creatively. In other words, children are born with creative genius. Employing a longitudinal study model, Land and Jarman studied 1,600 children at ages 5, 10, and 15.
The shocking statistic not reported on by most media outlets was that 98% of 5-year-olds display “genius” level creative problem-solving skills.
Surprisingly, Land said they discovered if given a problem with which they had to come up with an imaginative, and innovative solution, 98 percent of 5-year-olds tested at the “genius” level. Simply put, their answers to how the problem should be solved were brilliant.
All of this changed however as these young minds were subjected day-in, day-out, to the mind-numbing counter-intuitive Marxist American public school system.
These numbers are chilling.
Upon entry into the school system, those numbers started to drop dramatically. When the team returned to test those same subjects at age 10, the percentage of genius-level imaginative and innovative thinkers fell to an unthinkable 30 percent. The indicators led the researchers to believe the current educational system is to blame. Not only did 68 percent of those students lose their ability to think with imagination and innovation, the thought that only 30 percent could still do is unfathomable.
The downward spiral continued to be demonstrated at age 15. When the researchers returned, the percentage of genius-level students had dropped to an abysmal 12 percent. Gasps could be heard all around the room as the audience attempted to process how such a brilliant group of students could sink so low in their imaginations and ability to solve problems with innovation.
It gets even worse. By the time school-children leave the government-run system and enter adulthood, only a few possessed any of the brilliance so clearly demonstrated during their initial 5-year assessment.
As a result, Land’s team was not surprised to find only 2 percent of adults (Age 31) still retain their ability to think imaginatively, with creativity and innovation.
The results were astounding. The proportion of people who scored at the “Genius Level”, were:
- amongst 5 year olds: 98%
- amongst 10 year olds: 30%
- amongst 15 year olds: 12%
- Same test given to 280,000 adults (average age of 31): 2%
According to Land, the primary reason for this is that there are two types of thinking processes when it comes to creativity:
- Convergent thinking: where you judge ideas, criticize them, refine them, combine them and improve them, all of which happens in your conscious thought
- Divergent thinking: where you imagine new ideas, original ones which are different from what has come before but which may be rough to start with, and which often happens subconsciously
He notes that throughout school, we are teaching children to try and use both kinds of thinking at the same time, which is impossible. Competing neurons in the brain will be fighting each other, and it is as if your mind is having a shouting match with itself. Instead of this, Land suggests we need to allow people to split their thinking processes into the various different states, to make each of them more effective. It’s something which all of my own learning strongly correlates with as well, and which I speak about in my own lectures.
So if you want your child to retain their ability and desire to be creative, encourage them to let their mind run free while they come up with ideas, and only afterwards to sit down, evaluate them and start working on the ones they think are the best.
Dr. Land attributes indirectly to the introduction of Marxism into society.
Land blames the Industrial Revolution and its burgeoning factories for the demise of creativity. During that era, Land said the natural approach to teaching and learning led educators to develop “factories for human beings, too, called ‘schools’ so we could manufacture people that could work well in the factories.”
From a qualitative perspective, teachers point to governmental intrusion into the dumbing down of the nation’s school children. Starting with the development of the Department of Education, the federal government’s handprint is all over some of the worst decisions regarding public policy and education.
From the Clinton Administration’s mandated federal testing guidelines, to Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, to the disastrous Obama Administration’s Common Core Curriculum, teachers everywhere have complained they’re not teaching any longer. They’re simply instructing students to achieve the minimum educational requirements necessary for them to pass a standardized exam.
Predictably, during those administration’s attempts to force a model of education upon the nation, the homeschool movement has flourished. Parents were forced to come to the conclusion their local public school was failing to provide an education sufficient for their children to be able to attend college.
Land says people can actually get back to thinking creatively with imagination if they will get rid of stinking thinking. He urges listeners to get rid of three aspects of education: judgment, criticism, and censorship.
When students come up with a brilliant idea they’re met with constant criticism, therefore they become conditioned to think like the masses, instead of coming up with an accepted alternative solution.
“Find the 5-year-old,” in yourself, Land implores. He says it has “never gone away” and can be accessed at any moment. Land said “So, The Great Designer said, ‘I’m gonna put that mechanism in so they exercise it every day in case they ever need an idea.’ You’ve got that capability, absolutely!”
But Land says we only exercise that genius part of our brains when we’re dreaming. So dream big! Dream often. And don’t let naysayers rain on your imagination.
Using brain scan imaging, Land demonstrated how the brain is practically useless when it’s afraid. In contrast, the human brain is exceedingly active when it’s imagining.
Without specifically criticizing the educational system, Land addressed the major problem with teaching students to get the “right answer.” He says, instead, students should imagine many possibilities to achieve innovation and problem-solving.
According to Land, in order for industry to survive, it must be continually innovating, and adapting to change, expecting the landscapes to evolve, and evolve with it. Instead of becoming fixated on one right solution, come up with 30-40 imaginative ones to become innovative.
In 1956, Louis R. Mobley realized that IBM’s success depended on teaching executives to think creatively rather than teaching them how to read financial reports. As a result, the IBM Executive School was built around these six insights.
- First, traditional teaching methodologies like reading, lecturing, testing, and memorization are worse than useless. They are actually the counter-productive way in which boxes get built. Most education focuses on providing answers in a linear step by step way. Mobley realized that asking radically different questions in a non-linear way is the key to creativity.
- Mobley’s second discovery is that becoming creative is an unlearning rather than a learning process. [Did he know about George Land’s study above?] The goal of the IBM Executive School was not to add more assumptions but to upend existing assumptions. Designed as a “mind-blowing experience,” IBM executives were pummeled out of their comfort zone often in embarrassing, frustrating, even infuriating ways. Providing a humbling experience for hot shot executives with egos to match had its risks, but Mobley ran those risks to get that “Wow, I never thought of it that way before!” reaction that is the birth pang of creativity.
- Third, Mobley realized that we don’t learn to be creative. We must become creative people. A Marine recruit doesn’t learn to be a Marine by reading a manual. He becomes a Marine by undergoing the rigors of boot camp. Like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, he is transformed into a Marine. Mobley’s Executive School was a twelve-week experiential boot camp. Classes, lectures, and books were exchanged for riddles, simulations, and games. Like psychologists, Mobley and his staff were always dreaming up experiments where the “obvious” answer was never adequate.
- Mobley’s fourth insight is that the fastest way to become creative is to hang around with creative people –regardless of how stupid they make us feel. An early experiment in controlled chaos, The IBM Executive School was an unsystematic, unstructured environment where most of the benefits accrued through peer to peer interaction much of it informal and off-line.
- Fifth, Mobley discovered that creativity is highly correlated with self-knowledge. It is impossible to overcome biases if we don’t know they are there, and Mobley’s school was designed to be one big mirror.
- Finally and perhaps most importantly, Mobley gave his students permission to be wrong. Every great idea grows from the potting soil of hundreds of bad ones, and the single biggest reason why most of us never live up to our creative potential is from fear of making a fool out of ourselves. For Mobley, there were no bad ideas or wrong ideas only building blocks for even better ideas.
Read the full article by August Turak at Forbes.com