Destroying Our Most Precious Resource – (It’s Not Air or Water)

By Shlomo Maital

creativity decline

98% geniuses, age 5;  2% geniuses as adults

  In an interview with the AARP (retired persons) magazine, Warren Buffett warns against investing in gold, and in doing so, informs us how much gold there is in the world:  170,000 tons, which if melted together would form a cube 68 feet on each side, worth $9.6 trillion (at $1,750 per ounce).  Wow…that’s a lot of cash, more than half America’s annual GDP.  

   Now – imagine reverse alchemy:  Irradiating that cube until it becomes…lead.  $10 trillion in value disappears instantly. Gone forever. 

  Insanity?  We are doing the equivalent every day to our children.

  Studies show that nearly all (98%)  3-to-5 year-olds score as creative geniuses, when measured by their divergent thinking skills (ability to envision multiple solutions to a problem – matching the definition of creativity as ‘widening the range of choices’).  [The test is used by NASA to measure creativity among its employees].  By age 10, only 32% scored at genius level. By age 15, 10%.  And by adulthood:  2% !    ***   [See Figure above].

    We can only blame the way kids learn in schools for this.  Rigid, regimented, this-is-the-right-way convergent thinking, my way or highway. 

    What is the value of this destroyed creativity?  Far far more than that cube of gold.  Imagine all the wonderful ideas we will never have, to enrich our lives and change the world, because our young geniuses have their creative sparks extinguished.   And we can never get it back.

    If only there were awareness of the problem. If only we could stop destroying creativity in our children, by a few simple ways to foster divergent thinking. 

    Is anyone listening?


***     Education researcher Y. Zhao notes, in a 2009 book:    “In their 1992 book Breakpoint and Beyond: Mastering the Future—Today, Land and Jarman (1992) describe a longitudinal study on creativity beginning in the 1960s. Land administered eight tests of divergent thinking, which measure an individual’s ability to envision multiple solutions to a problem.  NASA uses these tests to measure the potential for creative work by its employees.  When the tests were first given to 1,600 three- to five- year-olds, Land found 98% of them to score at a level called creative genius. But five years later when the same group of children took the tests, only 32% scored at this level and after another five years, the percentage of geniuses declined to 10%. Figure 0.1 illustrates the sharp decline in one measure of creativity as children get older. By 1992, more than 200,000 adults had taken the same tests and only 2% scored at the genius level.”