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Teaching Creativity
I previously wrote regarding the fact that children's art is, in general, no more or less creative as they grow up through elementary, middle, and high school. I'm sure individual horror stories exist where a child's creativity may seem to have been, at least momentarily, stifled to some degree, but it is likely that for every such incident, an equal and opposite experience could be recounted where some academic encounter unleashed a virtual torrent of unexpected creative activity in another child. As I said yesterday, it is my belief that creativity is not a very fragile gift and need not be treated with the kid gloves we often don when we try to impose various difficult-to-master art skills upon the growing child. The truly creative child may sometimes struggle a little, but in the end, will embrace each new skill and the teacher of that skill as well.

Now, having said that, I've also come to the conclusion that just as it's very difficult to stifle creativity in a child, it is just as difficult, perhaps even more so to teach creativity. In fact I'm not sure for what I might not go so far as to say, if not impossible, at least it might well be fairly unproductive to even try. Before every artist reading this becomes apoplectic, let's make sure we read our terms correctly. I'm not saying we shouldn't encourage creativity. Varying degrees of creativity are innate in all individuals of all ages, and they can be encouraged and unleashed. But can they be taught? I have my doubts.

Much is made today that art classes, apart from teaching skills (which by in large we do pretty well), are great places to learn problem solving skills. Good problem solving exercises, almost by definition, involve trying to find creative approaches to the problem situation. This is trying to teach creativity, though not necessarily from an artistic perspective. I've tried it too, at various academic levels. Again and again, art skills aside, the creative student does well at these exercises while those not so gifted fall back on tried-and-true solutions which are often inappropriate, impractical, inefficient, or frankly just plain wrong. And more often than not, the uncreative individual simply gives up, refusing to even try to solve the problem. Or in group situations, he or she reacts by becoming obstinate toward creative solutions or very passive in terms of letting the more creative member of the team contribute all the ideas. I think what all this tends to underline is that creativity is very much a factor in intelligence, and as we all know too well, intelligence, at all ages, is very unevenly distributed.

Contributed by Lane, Jim
11 January 1998

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