A long hidden war, one that menaces the future of America. It’s been a threat for a long time, but only recently is it being exposed by unique studies, such as one done by Adobe in 2012. What is this scourge to the American people? The Death of Creativity.
The Adobe study claims that 95 percent of second graders believe that they are creative. A large percent, and certainly seeming to indicate bright futures. But then skip forward a couple of years. Only 5 percent of high school graduates believe that they are still creative. Somehow, as people are aging, they are losing their imagination. Losing their unique ways of thinking, sacrificing something they don’t understand in their desperate search for the elusive ‘maturity.’ Many recognize this too late; the Adobe case study also revealed that, “1 in 4 people believe they are not living up to their creative potential.”
“Imagination rules the world.” That was what Napoleon Bonaparte, of revolutionary fame, claimed. George Lucas, of Star Wars fame, reminded the world that, “You can’t do it unless you can imagine it.”
Now imagine only 5 percent of high school graduates able to competently rule the world, or do amazing and innovative things. That is 95 percent of America’s most precious resource, her people, wasted.
The snuffing out of creativity by age has been a documented trend for years. For example, J.M. Barrie’s 1902 Peter Pan. Pan and his “Lost Boys” live in the mystical realm of Neverland, where they never grow up, and stay magical and happy for all time.
When Wendy, the heroine, at first comes along she is taken in by the pixies and mermaids and wonder. But as the story progresses she comes to realize that she wants to grow up, she wants her parents. So she sacrifices Neverland for adulthood.
The book presents this choice as a double edged sword. Wendy gets to grow older and have her own children, but when the reader sees her stare out into the dark London night at the end of the novel, it’s clear she misses the fantastic elements of life with Pan. Elements of life she can no longer be a part of because she is too old. No longer a child.
While the fantastic elements of the tale are useful in terms of fostering creativity in all age groups of readers, this story is damaging. Pan is almost a parable, a tale that reinforces the idea that to grow up one must go through the possibly painful sacrifice of “childhood imagination.”
The best minds of the human race have almost all spoken on imagination and creativity, exposing its values and necessity to anyone that would listen. Above, Lucas and Bonaparte were quoted. French poet, Anatole France, backs them up, “To imagine is everything, to know is nothing at all.” Even Einstein lent his voice to this argument, claiming, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”
These esteemed men and women were not talking about childhood whims, imaginary friends and the like, they were speaking of the essence of creativity. A concoction of daring and intelligence that is needed in all men, and should never be limited to childhood.
As the problem of the waning of creativity with age has begun to garner more notice, various people have begun to point the finger of blame. The Adobe study showed that 52 percent of people globally believe it is the educational system that stifles creativity, others believe it is a personal choice. When poet Dana Gioia spoke to Stanford’s graduating class of 2007, she claimed, “we’ve relinquished… imagination to the marketplace.” According to Gioia the marketing and entertainment moguls of America are stealing natural creativity, and it’s been an easy battle, because the American people are giving up their power without a fight.
It can be seen that as of late a lot of effort has been put into discovering cause. But what about the solution? How can the imagination and creativity of America be saved?
At the moment it seems like children are flowers, soaked in imagination and adults are cacti, propped in the desert, with only the mirage of creativity. But this is not how it has to be. Creativity can be achieved if people are willing to put effort into fighting its decline, fighting for their own minds and future.
Fighting for Creativity
Introducing a MA Creative Arts Magazine to aid students in creative growth and development
W. Somerset Maugham, British playwright, novelist and short story writer, said, “Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to common belief, is more powerful in the mature than in the young.”
Perhaps this could be true. But that requires on the part of the maturing soul, effort. Conscious effort to foster individual creativity as the person ages. But how?
The obvious creative minds seen around the world are artists. Perhaps their medium is paint or clay, or maybe it’s ink. Authors, painters, sculptors, are all forced to access their creativity to create something out of nothing, an idea out of the abyss. Of course imagination is key to all professions. Without creativity it would be impossible to invent something like the iPhone or iPod.
But writing, art and music are easy ways to stretch creative muscles, gaining the practice that Maugham espouses. There is an intrinsic motivation to each of these disciplines; once started, creativity is addictive. But often in the busy lives of high school students, finding the opportunity to work out these specialized muscles is difficult.
At Minnehaha Academy students get unique opportunities to seek creative fulfillment with their classes. Such as: English, Ceramics, Painting, Newspaper, Yearbook. These classes help students find time for imagination during the school day, but often that’s not enough. Between required classes, tests, and test preps, classes meant for the creative souls are hard to get in to.
The publication classes are a great example. The Talon and The Antler staffs are allowed to be imaginative at all times. Truthfully, there is no other option in the attempt to create publications the student body will be interested in. But these classes are also an example of something many can not take advantage of, perhaps because of time, or because they do not have an immediate interest in journalism.
This year, all of that changes. Redhawks Online, the web version of The Talon, will have a new tab this year, a new member of the journalism family. A Creative Arts Magazine. This is a unique addition to the Minnehaha community, and used properly it will allow the creativity of all Minnehaha’s students to be fostered.
The reason the magazine will have such a large impact on MA is that it is open to all students. Unlike The Talon or The Antler where a student would have to be in the class to work on either publication, the magazine has been designed to showcase the literary or visually artistic work of any student.
Starting this fall, short stories, poems, painting, short films, and beyond, can all be submitted to [email protected] for review. The pieces chosen will be published on Redhawks Online, giving the creator the opportunity to spread his/her work to the world, and obtain verification.
This is an opportunity useful at face value, and beyond. At face value, being published is a great resume booster, as well as successful marketing tool in bringing the creator’s works into contact with professionals. But in addition, this opportunity is a key chance for imaginative growth, the growth needed to become a mature creative personality. Even if a work is not published online, the simple act of work-shopping the idea and creating anything, is fodder for creative growth.
America as a whole may be suffering as creativity declines, but Minnehaha is joining the resistance against the trend. This new Creative Lit Mag will be a weapon in the fight for the imagination of adults, and it all begins with you and your brain. Stretch your imagination, and create something wonderful. Then keep stretching, and become a creative adult; defy the norm.