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American Dream

Recent research presented by Kyung Hee Kim used the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) to explore one of the mainstays of the American image—innovation. She found that between 1984 and 1990, creative thinking among kindergarten through twelfth grade students in the United States started to decline. This decline has continued. To add insult to injury, claims have been made that the TTCT is a better predictor of lifetime achievement than such things as GPA and IQ tests. The significant decline in creativity that Kim has reported should raise a red flag not only for educators, but Americans who pride themselves on their creativity and innovative flare.

Kim suggests that freedom is the exact thing that nurtures creativity. Freedom within a school system fosters exploration and questioning. It allows individuals to take risks and in some cases fail. Freedom invites students to find ways to express themselves rather than being told how and when to express themselves. Freedom allows children to talk more and to see the world from their perspective and to then grapple with that reality.

It is obvious that freedom in the classroom is necessary not only for each individual’s well-being, but for the well-being of our national pride. While the notion of infusing a classroom with “freedom’ may seem overwhelming given the mandatory monitoring and evaluation driven culture that has become so common place, it can be done through creativity on the part of the teachers and administrators. Allowing students time to explore the curriculum that is being presented and asking them to grapple with the questions that stand before them is a great place to start. Allowing students to think about problems, topics, and ideas in a way that promotes flexibility and understanding should become common practice. Finally remembering that those individuals sitting in those neatly clustered desks are children and they need time to play, laugh, and have fun. Childhood only happens once and it appears that our current approach is stripping them of the skills and talents that they need in order to achieve the American Dream.

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