Educators educating Educators

Jan 19

March/April 14 Creativity

Before reading below, watch the Paper Airplane movie




You need to think outside the box. Why? Because life doesn’t come in a box with an instructional manual.

Nevertheless, what tends to happen is we end up putting our lives in a box supplied to us by society. It even comes with an instructional “one-size fits all manual.

Of course, it’s never going to get you very far. Living in someone else’s box, following their instructions, at best, you’ll be average.

For example, the Wrights Brothers. The airplane was invented by two bicycle repairmen – the Wrights Brothers. They specialized in divergent thinking. How?

Other inventors at the time, with far more money, were focusing on building a bigger and more powerful engine for their guilders. The consensus was, “ If you get a powerful engine, the thing will fly.”

But the Wright Brothers were divergent thinkers. They built a six-foot wind tunnel in their bicycle shop that allowed them to test different wings and properties. On December 17, 1903, they won the race while competitors were going bankrupt.

The work of Leonardo da Vinci is another insightful example of creativity. Unsigned and undated, inventory number 779 hangs behind thick glass in the Louvre, the Mona Lisa by da Vinci. Completed in the early 16th century, the Mona Lisa posses a mysterious, otherworldly beauty unlike any portrait that came before it.

To produce such a painting, Leonardo, who once wrote that he wished “to work miracles,” developed a new artistic technique he called sfumato, or “smoke.” Over a period of several years he applied translucent glazes in delicate films, some no more than the thickness of a red blood cell-to the painting, most likely with the sensitive tip of his finger. Gradually stacking as many as 30 of these films one on top of another, Leonardo subtly softened lines and color graduations until it seemed as if the entire composition lay behind a veil of smoke.

Children are born creative, and for confirmation, just watch kindergarten children play. For researched-based proof, Breakpoint and Beyond: Mastering the Future Today, written by George Land and Beth Jarman, examines a study that followed the creative capacity of students throughout childhood. When tested as kindergarteners, 98 percent of the study's subjects scored at the genius level in divergent thinking. When they were ten, 32 percent of the same group scored as high, and by age fifteen, only 10 percent made the cut. When 200,000 adults were given the same test, only two percent tested at the genius level.

“This shows two things,” says Sir Ken Robinson (world renowned education and creativity expert). “One is we all have above this capacity. And two, it mostly deteriorates.”

“Now, a lot of things have happened to these kids as they grow up. A lot. But one of the most important things that has happened to them, I’m convinced, is they’ve become ‘educated.’ They spent ten years at school being told there’s one answer – it’s at the back.”

And do you know why divergent thinking is so important? Because no two situations are exactly the same. Divergent thinking allows us to see lots of possible answers to a question.

Whatever troubles, challenges, or goals you are facing in life … they are like no one else’s. You never find the exact answer to your problems in a book.

You need to think for yourself.

You need to think way outside the box because life doesn’t come in a box with an instructional manual.

Nevertheless, what tends to happen is we end up putting our life in a box supplied to us by society. It even comes an instruction “one-size fits all” manual.

Of course, it’s never going to get you very far, living in someone else’s box, following their instructions. At best, you’ll be average.

And that is what the Paper Airplane movie is about.

And how does this apply to education?

It relates to one critical difference between IQ and creativity scores. With intelligence, there is a phenomenon called the Flynn effect – with each successive generation for the last 60 years, scores go up about 10 points. Enriched environments are making kids smarter.

What is so sensational about the Flynn effect is the degree of increment. In 60 years - that’s two generations - scores have risen by roughly one standard deviation. This means that an 18 year-old who scored the average for his cohort in 1990 would, if transported 60 years back in time, be among the highest-performing sixth. From being an average student in a class of 30, he would suddenly find himself in the top five.

But with creativity, a reverse trend has been identified: American creativity scores are falling. Concerned? Why is this happening? Next month News Update will continue exploring creativity and our schools.

Finally, this 1-minute You Tube video is a wonderful approach to wrap up our conversation on creativity for this month - Here’s to the Crazy Ones

See you next month.



“If we can control the attention of the child, we solve the problems of education.” Maria Montessori

This month Ed Tip will examine how to improve students' learning by activating their attention.