"How Creative Are You?"

CJ Westerberg, July 27, 2010 1:01 AM


Above: Kandinsky         

"All children are artists.
The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."
-- Picasso

Complementing Newsweek's cover story,  "The Creativity Crisis," reporting on the growing signs of the dearth of creativity in our culture, Newsweek weighs in with a fascinating predictive test in the creativity arena, the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking. 

What we like about this test is that measures (and values)  exactly the opposite qualities that are generally most valued in schools, especially in middle and high schools, where compliance, conformity and rigid adherency to instruction, rules and "what is taught" are rewarded and highly valued, without distinguishing between intellectual risk-taking (being intellectually disruptive) and being disruptive in comportment.   Our schools put creativity in the Art class box.  Giving lower school students homework assignments like coloring pictures of historical figures does not constitute a creativeness exercise.  How many times have we seen busy-work like this substitute for real challenges of creativity?   

Like great chefs, an understanding of technique and ability to follow recipes is valuable, but the ones who break from rules create masterpieces and even whole new epicurean genres, or the scientists who do the same (whatever happened to Pluto as a planet?), or the historians who question and uncover "new facts" and revelations?  

"Just as an IQ test tracks intelligence, the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking measures your CQ: how well you think creatively. Usually a 90-minute series of discrete tasks administered by a psychologist, the Torrance Test is not a perfect measure of creativity. But it has proven remarkably accurate in predicting creative accomplishments. We asked a group of ordinary children and adults to try their hands at several drawing tests: everyone was presented with incomplete line drawings and was given five minutes to turn them into pictures."

Two "well-known creativity scholars", James C. Kaufman, professor of psychology at California State University "who has published over 120 writings on creativity, including co-authoring Essentials of Creativity Assessment  and co-editing The International Handbook of Creativity" and Kyung Hee Kim, a professor at the College of William & Mary, who has "authored numerous papers on the efficacy of the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking", were judges:
"To score the Torrance drawing tasks, scholars aren't looking for the best artist. They are looking for ideas -- more ideas, original ideas, and elaboration on those ideas. Images also score higher if they tell a story, convey emotions, see things from a different angle, and have a sense of motion. Points get knocked off for responses that are very common. . . On the other hand, details, humor, sense of visual perspective are pluses."

What we found most intriguing and revealing were the comments by the judges regarding each slide.  For example, comments from their favorite follow, yet how often does school value when a child side-tracks from anything representational (and this include science experiments, theories in history, etc., and not just fine art):

"The use of shape is "totally new," and Fiona gets bonus points for a fantasy element. The robot's clear, genuine emotion suggests a story. Already, "it's everything we want an artist or writer to do in a story," so Kaufman predicts that Fiona's career will involve creative activity.

And, parents, listen up, too, since what we value at home sends a message to our children.  In this case, Bill is the father, who put up the work on the left in one of the slides:

 "But it's not surprising," he says. "My guess is, looking at Bill's work, that he is open to experience, playful, allowing children to do different things. Being raised by parents who encourage openness, playfulness - that increases creativity."

Check Out Full Newsweek Slide Show HERE - "How Creative Are You?"

Related article, "The Creativity Crisis In Our Schools" HERE.


Published by The Daily Riff July 2010.

Credit the Guggenheim Museum for the Kandinsky image with the accurate  representation of dimension below (The Daily Riff modified for slide show):

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It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
Leonardo da Vinci
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