Born creative geniuses
“We are born creative geniuses and the education system dumbs us down.” That’s the title of an article written by Coert Engels that was shared to me by renowned Filipino neurologist Dr. Joven Cuanang.
The article piqued my interest, because I have a 9-month-old baby, Gabriel, whose unlimited curiosity fascinates me to no end. He’s enthralled when he touches different textures like glass, plastic, paper, wood and fabric. He’s transfixed when he sees water features like fountains, ponds and rain. He marvels at clothing hangers, doorknobs and slippers.
The article talks about a creativity test sponsored by the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The test was administered on children age 4 and 5 to find out their ability to come up with “new, different and innovative ideas to problems.” The test results astounded scientists: 98 percent of the children fell into the “genius category of imagination.”
The test was again administered when the children were already aged 10, and the results showed that only 30 percent now fell in the genius category of imagination. When the children turned 15 years old, the test was administered yet again, and those who made it to the category dropped to only 12 percent. When the same test was tried on adults, only 2 percent qualified under the creative genius category.
The test results prompted one writer to argue that “the school system, our education, robs us of our creative genius.” While the tests were done in the United States, there’s little reason to doubt its relevance in our own country. The topic motivated me to read up more.
“Essentially, the real meaning of genius is to ‘give birth to the joy’ that is within each child. Every child is born with that capacity. Each child comes into life with wonder, curiosity, awe, spontaneity, vitality, flexibility and many other characteristics of a joyous being. Young children have vivid imaginations, creative minds and sensitive personalities,” shares Dr. Thomas Armstrong, a best-selling author on learning.
Armstrong laments the strong forces working in society that stifle the genius qualities in children. He cites factors like poverty, pressure on kids to grow up too soon, rigid ideologies, a regimented curriculum, the labeling of kids as learning-disabled or ADD (attention deficit disorder), and a mass media that provides an onslaught of violence, mediocrity and repugnant role models.
Armstrong has three recommendations to help preserve the creative genius characteristics of children as they mature into adulthood. First, adults should reawaken their own creativity, vitality, playfulness and wonder, because when children are surrounded by curious and creative adults, they have their own genius sparked into action. Second, adults need to provide “simple activities to activate the genius of children. Something as simple as a story, a toy (Einstein said that a simple magnetic compass awakened his love of learning at the age of 4), a visit to a special place, or a question, can unlock the gates to a child’s love of learning.”
Third, kids should grow in a home and school atmosphere where they can “learn in a climate free from criticism, comparison and pressure to succeed. Treat each child as a unique gift from God capable of doing wonderful things in the world.” Fourth, Armstrong encourages us to “understand that each child will be a genius in a totally different way from another child. Forget the standard IQ meaning of genius and use models like the theory of multiple intelligences to help kids succeed on their own terms.”
Another author, Raj Shah, encourages students to learn a variety of skills and subjects. The more unrelated the fields, the better, like guitar lessons, tennis lessons and painting lessons, he says. “Learning different methods and practicing new skills not only engages different parts of the brain, but it inspires cross-pollination of ideas from one domain to the other.”
The saying, therefore, is true: “The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age.”
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