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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
a qualitative perspective, teachers point to governmental
intrusion into the dumbing down of the nation’s school children.
Starting with the development of the Department of Education, the
federal government’s handprint is all over some of the worst
decisions regarding public policy and education.
the Clinton Administration’s mandated federal testing guidelines,
to Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, to the disastrous Obama
Administration’s Common Core Curriculum, teachers everywhere have
complained they’re not teaching any longer. They’re simply
instructing students to achieve the minimum educational
requirements necessary for them to pass a standardized exam.
during those administration’s attempts to force a model of
education upon the nation, the homeschool movement has flourished.
Parents were forced to come to the conclusion their local public
school was failing to provide an education sufficient for their
children to be able to attend college.
a result, Land’s team was not surprised to find only
2 percent of adults (Age 31) still retain their ability to think
imaginatively, with creativity and innovation. He
folks, if we’re going to enter the future with hope, that’s not
going to do it. We have to do something about it.
says people can actually get back to thinking creatively with
imagination if they will get rid of stinking thinking. He urges
listeners to get rid of three aspects of education: judgment,
criticism, and censorship.
students come up with a brilliant idea they’re met with constant
criticism, therefore they become conditioned to think like the
masses, instead of coming up with an accepted alternative
the 5-year-old,” in yourself, Land implores. He says it has “never
gone away” and can be accessed at any moment. Land said “So, The
Great Designer said, ‘I’m gonna put that mechanism in so they
exercise it every day in case they ever need an idea.’ You’ve got
that capability, absolutely!”
Land says we only exercise that genius part of our brains when
we’re dreaming. So dream big! Dream often. And don’t let naysayers
rain on your imagination.
brain scan imaging, Land demonstrated how the brain is practically
useless when it’s afraid. In contrast, the human brain is
exceedingly active when it’s imagining.
specifically criticizing the educational system, Land addressed
the major problem with teaching students to get the “right
answer.” He says, instead, students should imagine many
possibilities to achieve innovation and problem-solving.
to Land, in order for industry to survive, it must be continually
innovating, and adapting to change, expecting the landscapes to
evolve, and evolve with it. Instead of becoming fixated on one
right solution, come up with 30-40 imaginative ones to become