Dr. George Land and Beth Jarman were commissioned by NASA to help the space agency identify and develop creative talent. The two were tasked to research school children in an attempt to identify creative individuals from which the agency could pick to help with their many products. In a recent TED talk, Land described his team’s surprising findings on the education system which are nothing short of shocking.
It seems American schoolchildren lose their ability to think creatively over time. As students enter their educational journey, they retain most of their abilities to think creatively. In other words, children are born with creative genius. Employing a longitudinal study model, Land and Jarman studied 1,600 children at ages 5, 10, and 15.
Surprisingly, Land said they discovered if given a problem with which they had to come up with an imaginative, and innovative solution, 98 percent of 5-year-olds tested at the “genius” level. Simply put, their answers to how the problem should be solved were brilliant.
Upon entry into the school system, those numbers started to drop dramatically. When the team returned to test those same subjects at age 10, the percentage of genius-level imaginative and innovative thinkers fell to an unthinkable 30 percent. The indicators led the researchers to believe the current educational system is to blame. Not only did 68 percent of those students lose their ability to think with imagination and innovation, the thought that only 30 percent could still do is unfathomable.
The downward spiral continued to be demonstrated at age 15. When the researchers returned, the percentage of genius-level students had dropped to an abysmal 12 percent. Gasps could be heard all around the room as the audience attempted to process how such a brilliant group of students could sink so low in their imaginations and ability to solve problems with innovation.
Land blames the Industrial Revolution and its burgeoning factories for the demise of creativity. During that era, Land said the natural approach to teaching and learning led educators to develop “factories for human beings, too, called ‘schools’ so we could manufacture people that could work well in the factories.”