Are Your Kids Creatively FKD?

By / / Research shows that the creativity of America’s children, specifically those between the ages of 5 and 12, is declining. Just to clarify: this doesn’t mean that our kiddos are showing reduced skillz with crayonz, it means their ability to solve problems without pre-defined answers is fading out. It would be nice to correlate this decline in creativity with a decline in overall intelligence, indicating some nasty flaw in the education system. However, the same kids with decreasing creativity scores are delivering increasing IQ scores – which is considered by many as a fair indicator of schools’ health. Meanwhile, creativity has become the #1 sought after trait in today’s executives (that’s all executives, not just those in advertising), and our future depends on the ability of tomorrow’s leaders to think in ways we’ve yet to fathom. Is our “fill in the blank” style of education destroying our kids’ ability to think outside the – blank? The debates over education are dirty, political and rightfully complex, but at the end of the day, teachers can seem to find agreement in the following point of angst: today’s educational system isn’t making it easy to teach creatively, let alone teach creativity. What the system does seem to be doing (and what those declining creativity scores seem to confirm) is perpetuating the idea that for every problem, there is an answer, and if you don’t have that one answer memorized, you won’t just be wrong – your future might be at stake. It smells a lot like fear-based education. And nothing kills creativity like fear. Teachers are fearful that their kids won’t make the cut if they don’t fill in the right bubbles. Parents are fearful that their kids’ futures will be sabotaged if they don’t measure up to the given “standard.” Kids, like grownups, are just fearful of failure, and when creativity goes unrewarded – or even punished – that’s what it becomes associated with. No wonder they’re getting less creative. Creativity is about taking risks, tenaciously pursuing something undefined, and feeling gratitude for the lessons (ie, the failures) we learn along the path to our answer. Some might even define creativity as the opposite of fear; a sort of open-minded courage to attack real problems without the safety net of pre-defined conclusions. In other words, creativity doesn’t mesh well with the rules inherent to today’s education system. An interesting challenge flew around the advertising world last week that hoped to directly address this problem. Dubbed No Right Brain Left Behind, the challenge was a sort of open source, pro-bono problem busting event, which resulted in buckets of potential solutions that are now living here. Global and boutique agencies participated, resulting in over a hundred ideas – some pretty feasible, some full of creative daydreams so lofty the education system would need a total restructuring to support. The challenge came with the hope of bringing a handful of the best ideas to implementation, which should be no fast feat in today’s sluggish school system. So for now, if you’re a parent, consider yourself responsible for keeping the creative zombies at bay – and don’t forget to tell us how you do it. So… ideas?

This piece is cross-posted on Carmel’s new blog.


  1. Melissa Lynne Wescott February 14, 2011

    Nice article Carmel!
    Nice article Carmel! Congratulations on your new blog. You have so much experience. It is interesting to learn more about you. Thanks for giving me something to read, that is more up my alley, which is also why I enjoy The Egotist. I’ll definately check out your interviews; I’ve never heard of any of those people. Your writing ability and ability to present and interview astound me; It is something that I have severly struggled with in my lifetime.

    ‘How do you design for creativity’, looks like a great program. I liked reading the images.

    It is an issue that hits me close at home. While I was watching the Grammies last night, I thought how most of those people have been supressed, and it is good for them to have such expression. I was, pretty impressed, by how everybody got along so well in a mixed-crowd.
    I don’t recall ever seeing so many diverse & amazing people preforming in one program. I was really inspired by the CEO, talking about grammy education in schools, and it was just great programing overall.

  2. Carmel Hagen February 14, 2011

    Whoa, thanks Melissa – I
    Whoa, thanks Melissa – I don’t deserve half that flattery.

    The slide set was by a super talented guy by the name of Bud Caddell – you’d probably love to check out his blog too, as well as the final ideas for No Right Brain Left Behind.

    In regards to creativity and suppression – there’s actually a real relationship between the two, as hardship of some sort is actually a pretty successful instigator of creativity (according to research). So we should just tie those kids to a swing set somewhere and let em figure it out. Oh, Kidding 🙂

  3. Timothy Sisk February 15, 2011

    My mom is a public school
    My mom is a public school teacher who is retiring this year due to said politics. Teachers are under an enormous amount of stress and pressure from the school district to “perform” a certain way.

    I hope this is relevant, but on the other hand I do like to hear myself talk

  4. M.Wilde February 15, 2011

    I noticed it was by Bud
    I noticed it was by Bud Cadell; I will look at his blog, when I get the chance. The school issue is a tough one; as they all are, and are all continually being challenged.

    That statistic is true…I live it.

  5. Chris Thomas February 15, 2011

    Well here’s a shameless
    Well here’s a shameless plug:

    Due to massive budget cuts year over year, my son’s Jeffco public charter school is working hard to keep “specials” – arts, literature, language studies, PE and music classes in the school. That’s right, these hugely important classes will be cut by next year from our elementary school. And we aren’t the only ones facing this.

    Want to help? We’re looking for auction donations as well as attendees to this fantastic event:


  6. B Man February 15, 2011

    Yea I’m not really surprised
    Yea I’m not really surprised by these statistics. My mom is a teacher at an alternative school in Jeffco and they are in danger of being closed down in the next few years if the students don’t score well in all of the ridiculous standardized tests they’re forced to do. So it seems that the only goal for schools now is to do well at tests which is just dumbfounding.

    We’re just creating an army of zombie test taking kids so it’s no wonder the level of creativity is declining.

    I think many of us were hoping that our new president would undo many of the harmful and absurd policies that were put in place by the wonderful G. Dub administration, but unfortunately nothing seems to have changed.

    I do think a big part also comes from how parents are raising their kids these days. Parents need to be conscious of keeping their kids involved in creative activities and not just let them be glued to a TV or video games. It’s depressing to see so many Minivans and SUV’s with TV screens now built in so the kids have something to do while they drive somewhere. Instead why not talk to them or give them a book?

  7. Anonymous February 15, 2011

    My wife’s an elementary
    My wife’s an elementary school teacher at a magnate school that specializes in experiential, non-standardized education. In other words, just the kind of education that teaches creative problem solving. At first the parent’s loved it. Now they’re not so keen on the model because their kids are not being graded and measured in a manner that allows them to be compared to kids in traditional programs. The parents seem to have this need to constantly rank their kids and without the standardized tests, etc., they can’t.

    Of course, most of us were products of standardized school curricula (in place long before no child left behind) and somehow we turned out to be fairly creative. To pin the failings of the current education system on one administration is as shortsighted as expecting another administration to fix the problem. That being said, I agree with the statement about the environment in which parents are raising their kids contributing to the decline in creativity. Perhaps the instant accessibility to information and answers has something to do with it…

  8. bmettler February 16, 2011

    RSA Animate – Changing
    RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms – Sir Ken Robinson

  9. Barry G. February 16, 2011

    It’s a shame schools are so
    It’s a shame schools are so overcrowded, and teachers aren’t able to give students the attention necessary. It is also a shame that many parents (none reading this forum, most likely, otherwise they would actually exert effort for their kids) who don’t participate in their children’s education much, or at all.

    An elephant in the room that most have a problem addressing, is that of illegal aliens, and anchor babies taking up a lot of classroom space. They contribute to overcrowding, and often their parents either don’t care much about helping their kids with homework and such, or are just not able to. This is a nationwide problem that needs addressing and does indeed impact the ability of hardworking and thoughtful teachers to provide a great education for the children of this nation.

  10. philosophycommunication February 17, 2011

    A good picture is A Race to
    A good picture is A Race to Nowhere. Check it out. It talks in an open and honest manner about how our kids are being pushed to the brink – the educators’ role and the parents. While the film isn’t focused on creativity, it does shed light on the current school system – which in turn is affecting the overall output of the kids.

    In general, there is 5X more homework for our kids than there was when we were in high school. My girls hit the books from school-out to dinner. From dinner to bed. It’s like the teachers don’t consider the load the other teachers pile on. And the pressure to perform on each outweighs the good of the whole… ie the all work, no play mentality. The limited time causes a lack of creative thinking because our students must rush to the next project. What happened to riding bikes after school? Playing a sport, getting outside. And even old-fashioned watching a little TV. Leisure reading time is hard to squeeze-in. And reading opens-up our imagination zone. Imagination is creativity. Why is my kid driven to have a 4.3 gpa on a scale of 4.0?

    Let’s talk technology. The free-time our children do have. Where is it spent? Social networking. Texting. My last ATT bill revealed that my daughter sends on average 120 texts a day. Perhaps with all the spoon fed entertainment, we’re less likely to devise our own ideas. I’d like to see a return to making things with our hands for school. Making dioramas, cutting paper, glue, etc. More creative writing assignments.


  11. M.Wilde February 17, 2011

    I hear the 4.3 GPA. I almost
    I hear the 4.3 GPA. I almost failed out of HS, I had a natural disaster at home, and I went from a straight a student, to working hard, to get through it. I new kids who got 3 hours a sleep a night to get into these crazy schools. They got 1500 on the SAT and I got a 1040[600 in math & 400 in english, which I’ve improved on over the years] I knew I wouldn’t, and I made my own decision to work at my own rate on what I was best at, and let them go.

    I am a big believer of alternative schools, trade schools, and waldorf schools. It is why I am so open-minded.

    I am pretty sure the technology craze is why they have phone pod set-ups, and laptop row at their organized demonstrations.

  12. Barry G. February 17, 2011

    Randall makes some excellent
    Randall makes some excellent points here.

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