NASA's Study on children: How Traditional Schooling Reduces Creative Spark
George Land's eye-opening findings in a study commissioned by NASA highlight a concerning decline in creative genius from childhood to adulthood. The traditional educational setup emerges as a potential culprit, sparking discussions on fostering divergent thinking to revive innate creativity
In the late 1960s, NASA was keen on hiring innovative minds. To achieve this, they sought to understand the nature of creative genius and commissioned a study led by George Land. The focus was on young children, aged 3 to 5, as they embarked on a journey to decipher creativity. A group of 1,600 kids enrolled in a Head Start program were subjected to a creativity test initially crafted for NASA recruits. The results were startling; 98% of these youngsters were labeled as creative geniuses. However, a follow-up revealed a concerning trend. The genius tag dropped to 30% at age 10 and further down to 12% at age 15. When compared to adults, only a dismal 2% maintained this level of creative genius.
George Land didn’t stop there. He took to a TEDxTucson stage to share these findings. He identified two forms of thinking; divergent, linked to imagination and new ideas, and convergent, related to judgement and evaluation. Land noted a troubling scenario in the educational realm; both thinking forms were being forced to coexist, leading to a cognitive clash that suppressed creativity. He argued that this educational model, promoting simultaneous divergent and convergent thinking, was a major culprit in the decline of creative genius as children transitioned through school.
Land’s study, dubbed as one of the longest experiments in history, portrayed a glaring issue. The traditional educational setup seemed to be stifling the natural creative prowess of children, morphing them into less creative adults. This longitudinal exploration by Land and his team revealed a pressing need; a call for an educational overhaul to nurture rather than suppress the inherent creativity within individuals. Land’s narrative hints at a potential goldmine of creativity, waiting to be tapped, if only the educational paradigms are shifted to favor divergent thinking. His work remains a seminal discourse, urging a rekindling of the creative genius within by revisiting the educational structures in place. Through his eyes, the journey of nurturing creative genius is akin to rediscovering the boundless imaginative vistas once traversed with ease during the tender ages of 5.