We are all born with some degree of creativity but from the moment we enter the world, it seems like forces conspire to strip the fantastical from us. We are told our imaginary friends are not real. We are told to color in the lines. We are told that the sky is blue and not any other color, especially not that hue of pink we choose in the Crayola box. We are told to follow directions, listen to orders and that our parents and our teachers are always right. So we learn to let some of our whimsy fade; we put our rainbow-colored world ideas away into the land of fairy tales and dreams, and we try to become good, productive citizens.
To many, the art classroom becomes the only place these hidden pots of golden thinking can be nurtured and directed.
Remember the good old days when art was an essential part of our school curriculum? Sadly, it is not the same for today’s generation of youth. A vast majority of schools facing budget crises have been prone to slash the art classroom first, seeing it as a non-essential skill to teach underneath more important subjects like math and science.
What this means is that we are raising a generation of kids who are learning the art of memorization and comprehension but without the other parts of the brain puzzle that allows them to use these tools to think imaginatively, create strategies, explore and come up with solutions to problems and to think out of the box with an open and free mind.
It’s ironic that at the same time we are seeing the creative subjects curriculum disappear, we are also being told by numerous researchers and writers in the education field that the 21st century is being heralded as the age of innovation. Creativity, ingenuity, and innovation are essential to solving many of the challenges facing the world today and the same old solutions that have been used for decades will not be the solutions that solve the problems of the future. Daniel Pink, in A Whole New Mind, argues that any activity that does not involve creativity will someday be automated and that most jobs in the future will require a high level of creative thinking.
From my years of experience working with gifted and twice-exceptional children, I have used creativity as a tool to help draw out and encourage the special talents in these kids who are deficient in other areas. I have seen first hand how helping a child access their creativity and allowing them to be creative is key to the successful fruition of a child’s sense of identity and belonging, as well as their sense of freedom and confident individuality. Last month, my friend and colleague Dr. Susan Daniels and I wrote and published the book Raising Creative Kids in direct response to our feelings that parents everywhere need tools to help them provide this kind of creative education for their children. Because if not parents, who else will?
Creativity is needed now in the world more than ever and it’s our growing children who are going to be the ones to provide it. We need to accept the responsibility as parents to fortify our children’s’ life-learning process. Embracing and encouraging creativity is key to this endeavor - and it can be fun too.
Dr. Dan Peters, Ph.D., is co-founder of the Summit Center, which provides psychological and educational assessments and counseling for children and adolescents, specializing in the gifted, creative, and twice-exceptional.