Dr. Torrance finds our society pretty savage in its treatment of creative youngsters. In a number of first, second and their-grade classrooms, he asked teachers and pupils to nominate those children who talked most, those with the most ideas for being naughty and those with the silliest ideas. Teacher and pupils voted pretty much alike. They credited the “best ideas” to youngsters who tested average or low on creativity. The boy who was cited for having the “silliest” idea and the most ideas for being naughty proved in subsequent testing to be the most creative member of the class.
In another experiment children were organized into teams of five with just one highly creative boy or girl in each. Teams were given a time limit to examine and manipulate science toys — to find out what could be done with them. In every group, although the one highly creative member usually produced the most and the best ideas, he seldom got credit. After ridiculing his ideas, teammates often adopted them. When the creative member was a girl, she was likely to pass her ideas along to some boy, who then got credit.
Parents, too, Dr. Torrance finds, are hard on creative children. Even those who insist that they want their children to learn and think creatively are disturbed, irritated and embarrassed by children who do so. “Why can’t he be like other kids?” they groan. Under this parental pressure children often feel guilty about their gift and try to convert themselves into more conventional types, either hiding or destroying the talents that make them different.
How can a parents eliminate or mitigate the pressures that make children give up their creative spark? Dr. Torrance suggests:
Don’t discourage fantasy. One of the qualities of the creative person, young or old, is his ability to move freely between the world of facts and reason, and the vast realms of the mind that lie just below the surface of consciousness. His greater flexibility, depth of feeling and keenness of insight come from being open to vague feelings and hunches others dismiss as ridiculous.
Don’t hold your child back. Don’t be so intent on sparing your children the hurt of failure that you deny them a chance to learn from their mistakes. To learn creatively, children have to bite off more than they can chew, overestimate their capacities and take risks. Educators have found that many children can start learning long before they reach the supposed “readiness