Thursday, October 08, 2009

Creativity and Conformity Don't Mix

Is it possible to be socialized and creative at the same time? Unlikely, according to Robert Epstein (The Case against Adolescence) who argues that in order to make people 'civil,' "we need them to learn to conform to a wide variety of rules and practices, a practise scientists call 'socialization.' The process starts at birth and it shifts into high gear when we start school."
I intuitively knew this since before my daughters were born and so I didn't put them in school. I wanted to preserve their creativity and I am delighted to say that it worked. My oldest girl recently complained about how with drawing she was "a terrible artist because she had no guidelines, she had no one to copy from, no one showed me how. I just muddled along." When she started school in grade 8 she says she her work was so different from everyone else's; that now with learning techniques at school she is "actually really good" and is contemplating a career in the arts. I had to point out to her that it is because she was not influenced by rules and how to dos all those years of not going to school that she preserved her creativity and so that now that she is older she is able to make use of technique without compromising creativity.
As Epstein writes,"children are constantly imagining and playing and sculpting and building and drawing, and they seldom 'copy'; copying in fact is a skill they need to be one needs to teach a young child to think outside boxes. By first grade however, when elementary schools-now competing nationwide to get high 'academic performance indices'-dramatically increase the academic load, the frequency of creative expression declines."
Epstein goes on to ask the question,"with powerful social forces bearing down, how to any of us end up being 'creative?'
"Generally speaking, the children and adults who continue to express creativity at a high rate are the misfits-the risk takers and the authority-defyers who resist socialization."
Which brings us to teens again (remember-this series of posts was supposed to focus on youth). Since teens as a group are made misfits in todays society-"teens should express more creativity on the average than adults do, because the less one conforms to society's rules, the more likely one is to live up to one's creative potential. When we look at teen creativity, that's exactly what we find."


Anonymous said...

Funny how people always ask the 'S' question when they hear that your kid doesn't go to school. I always reply,"Socialized to whom? To what?"
Makes them think!

Nigel Jones said...

Interesting indeed. Because we definitely want our children to mimick what they see so-called adults doing, we're doing such a great job with this world. Right? *Sigh*

Hamilton Climate Challenge said...

There's a lot wrong with the world-climate change being foremost in my mind. It's going to take massive creativity to get out of this one.
"So called-adults" to quote Nigel, need to grow up and take responsibility. Lead. Young people will follow.


"Creativity and Conformity Don't Mix"... COME ON RANDY & BEATRICE- THEY SURE DO!!! This is the very reason why the world is in the state that it is in now!! It seems that there are way too many "Creative-types" out there who think that they have the "answer" to get "us" out of "our messes we have gotten into"... economic, socially and/or for that matter environmentally. There are way too many creative-laggards/non-thinking people out there who follow and conform to; "so-called"- those "creative dim-twits". These "mental-midgets" do not think through the BS that is thrown to them and end up following (the "creative leaders") like: lemmings over the cliff (taking the rest of us with them). I think creativity is an "AWFUL" thing... must be used wisely... an "uncreative/unthinking population" who conform to (eg. the Right-Wing nutbars that we have had here in North America for the past decade - and not finished with)... there is very little hope for the future.

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