21st Century Skills | Research

Education System Stifles Creativity, Survey Finds

Is the American education system stifling creativity? That's the attitude held by a majority of Americans, according to a new worldwide survey focused on attitudes toward creativity in schools, the workplace, and the home.

To coincide with the launch of its new Creative Suite 6 software and a new creative scholarship program, Adobe has released a benchmark study on attitudes toward creativity in education, the workplace, and the home.

"The urge to create has never been stronger, and the ability to create is unprecedented, yet a new global study shows that most people feel they are not living up to their own creative potential," said Shantanu Narayen, president and CEO of Adobe, in a prepared statement. "We challenge the notion that creativity is reserved for an elite few, and believe that no matter what you do, everyone has the potential to be creative."

Globally, there's widespread agreement with that sentiment, according to the results of the research, published in a report called the "State of Create Study."

It found that, worldwide, 73 percent of respondents agreed that, "as a country, we are not living up to our creative potential." That sentiment was a bit stronger in the United States in particular, at 82 percent. Similarly, worldwide, 59 percent of respondents said their educational systems are stifling creativity. In the United States, that figure was 62 percent.

"One of the myths of creativity is that very few people are really creative," said former education professor, author, and TED speaker Ken Robinson, in a statement released to coincide with the report. "The truth is that everyone has great capacities, but not everyone develops them. One of the problems is that too often our educational systems don't enable students to develop their natural creative powers. Instead, they promote uniformity and standardization. The result is that we're draining people of their creative possibilities and, as this study reveals, producing a workforce that's conditioned to prioritize conformity over creativity."

Other findings from the study include:

  • 70 percent of Americans agreed that, "as a culture, we take creativity for granted" (versus 52 percent worldwide);
  • 72 percent of Americans said that "creating online is part of our culture: (versus 61 percent worldwide);
  • 72 percent of Americans also said they believe that there is increasing competition to have what they create get noticed, versus 63 percent worldwide;
  • Only half of Americans said they're being increasingly asked to think creatively at work (versus 55 percent worldwide), while 80 percent said there is increasing pressure to be productive rather than creative in the workplace (versus 75 percent worldwide).

By far, respondents from the United States expressed the strongest agreement with the statement, "Children are becoming more creative as they spend more time online creating what they imagine." Fifty-one percent of Americans surveyed agreed with that statement versus 39 percent worldwide.

For the survey, the margin of error for the global findings was estimated at ±1.4 percent and for the country-specific findings ±3.1 percent.

The release of the survey coincided with the launch of a new $1 million Adobe Foundation Creative Scholarship program, which is open to high school seniors who are Adobe Youth Voices participants.

"With Adobe Foundation Scholarships we are reinforcing our commitment to closing the creativity gap," Narayensai. "Our vision for this scholarship fund is to support the next generation of creative thinkers and propel the future careers of those who create."

The first round of Creative Scholarship applications will take place in spring 2013, with awards to be rolled out in fall 2013. Additional details can be found in our separate coverage.

Additional details about the awards program can be found on the Adobe Youth Voices site. The State of Create global benchmark study can be accessed on Adobe's site in PDF form.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidrnagel/ .