Has anybody read “The Creativity Crisis,” by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman in this week’s issue of Newsweek? It’s pretty scary-crazy stuff. It reports that American childhood creativity, as measured by the Paul Torrance, CQ tests, has been steadily declining since 1990. The article defines creativity as the ability to combine divergent thinking (generating lots of unique ideas) with convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best results), and says that kids who score high creativity indexes on the Torrance test consistently went on to become creatively successful adults: entrepreneurs, inventors, college presidents, authors, doctors, diplomats, software developers, etc.
The article suggests that a solution to this decline in creativity is to develop problem-based learning in schools, as opposed to drilling facts. This problem-based learning would get students thinking creatively in subjects beyond the arts, such as in the sciences and in engineering. This way students work together to determine the source of an issue, brainstorm ideas, then eliminate ideas to find a single, practical solution. This process trains them in both divergent and convergent thinking, “training” them to think creatively.
With the dominant trends in American education being “standardized curriculum, rote memorization, and nationalized testing,” the article got me thinking about grammar-school-level, children’s music education. What is the best course of action to engage children in art? From what I understand, there are four schools of children’s music education: Kodály, Orff, Dalcroze, and Suzuki. If I remember my grammar school music classes correctly, I think I was trained in the “ta-ta-ti-ti-ta,” hand-motion-movable-do-solfege school of Kodály (my teacher also employed a ferret hand puppet named Coco who taught us how to sing “The Weight” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Not sure what school that falls under, but it meant my class grew up with a healthy appreciation for The Band). As part of my KTRU live broadcast series of the Shepherd Symphony Orchestra, a recent interview of mine with Head of the Young Children’s Division of the Michael P. Hammond Preparatory Program at Shepherd, Rachel Buchman, morphed from a 10-minute segment into an hour long conversation about Dalcroze. Other than that, my knowledge of Orff and Suzuki are limited to what Wikipedia tells me.
I don’t feel comfortable forming opinions about things I have limited knowledge about, but I’m genuinely interested in learning more. So I’m curious: what do you think is the solution to the American “Creativity Crisis”?