Creativity and Education

Creativity is now the engine of life success, yet our schools fail to cultivate it.

It is also the most advanced form of intelligence, yet our schools completely ignore it. However, we are ignoring it at our peril. A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 “leadership competency” of the future, and the future is now.

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Already, our college graduates are struggling to find jobs as degrees become less valuable. What we need now is creativity, not just left-brained prowess. Thus, creativity and play are essential to life success. In A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink says our country is entering a new era, the Conceptual Age, during which right-brained skills such as design and storytelling are far more critical than outsourceable left-brained skills such as accounting and computer programming. As we facing growing national unemployment, Daniel Pink’s message is increasingly relevant. We need to cultivate our creativity in order to be employed.

No longer can we obtain a college degree and expect to find a job. Now we need to design beautiful, useful things; be storytellers; use symphonic-thinking to innovate; empathize with others; play to learn; and create meaning. It is these right-brained skills that make Apple, Tesla, and Instagram thrive.

This is why 53 percent of college graduates aged twenty-five and younger are unemployed–because they were educated in a left-brained industrial school system, which crushes creativity and imagination. An important part of creativity is our ability to play. Studies show that scientists who create art, whether it is music, dance, drawing, or writing, are fifteen to twenty-five times more likely to win a Nobel Prize. For example, Albert Einstein’s greatest insights came not from his mathematical ability, but from playing the violin in his kitchen. Whenever a problem stymied him, he would run downstairs to play his instrument, and all of a sudden, an epiphany would flood his brain. Yet, in the United States, we discourage play, thinking that it means our kids our fooling around.

In his groundbreaking TED talk, Stanford professor Stuart Brown explains that play is more than fun–that it develops our empathy, imagination, and intelligence. In fact, Brown found a startling statistic–that murderers did not play enough as children. Even at school, play is not valued as part of the American education system, much to its detriment. American elementary students’ playtime averages 27 minutes a day, while Finnish children, who earn the world’s top academic scores, get 75 minutes of recess a day–a 15-minute break after every lesson. Clearly, play is vital to our success. Thus, creativity and play are essential to creating meaningful, productive lives.

As our unemployment rate rises, cultivating our innate right-brained creative skills is becoming evermore essential. Truly, our fate lies within us.