We’re Born Geniuses And Education Dumbs Us Down, NASA Scientists Find

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It’s news which would shock nobody who has gone through the traditional western education system.

We all know how soul-destroying it can be to go through hours and hours of topics we have no interest in, no affinity for, and are unlikely to use in our lifetimes.

Aside from questions of efficacy (why are we learning about complex algebra rather than how to work out our finances anyway?), our education system has long been criticised for snuffing out any creative impulse its victims students may have.

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And now it’s been confirmed by Dr. George Land, who created a highly specialised test to measure the creativity of NASA scientists and engineers, but this test has subsequently been tested on school children.

The original purpose of the test was to capitalise on the more creative NASA employees sensibilities, but the Dr Land and Beth Jarman, who ran the test, were left with a number of questions. Why are some people creative? Are we born with it? Can it be taught.

Obviously, they thought the best thing to do was to test it out, and test it out they did. On 1,600 children between the ages of 4 and 5, and their results shocked them.

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The test challenges the participants to look at the ability to create new and innovative ideas to certain problems, and the percentage of children who ranked in genius levels of creative imagination was a staggering 98 per cent.

Pretty incredible right, well here’s the real kicker. The two scientists decided to figure out just what happens to this creativity over time – because, let’s face it, 98 per cent of people are not creative geniuses.

So the two decided to run a longitudinal study over a few years, and tested the same students again when they were around ten years old.

At this point, the number of creative geniuses had fallen to about 30 per cent, and had dropped to 12 per cent by the time they were 15.

Speaking in an incredible Ted talk, Dr George Land had this to say:

Look folks, if we’re going to enter the future with hope. That’s not going to work, we need to do something about it…

There are two kinds of thinking that occur in the brain and they use different parts of the brain and it’s a completely different paradigm of how we perform something in our minds.

One is called ‘divergent’ – that’s imagination, that’s generating new possibilities – and the other is ‘convergent’ and that’s where you’re making a judgement, a decision. You’re criticising, you’re evaluating.

So one is like an accelerator and one is like a brake, we found that what happens to these children as we educate them is we teach them to do both kinds of thinking at the same time.

So when somebody asks you to come up with new ideas, as you come up with them, what we mostly learn in school is to start looking at them immediately…

When you look at what’s happening inside the brain you see the neurons are fighting each other and diminishing the power of the brain.

This isn’t going to work folks, you need to find the five year old.

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If that’s not a damning statement on the current format of our education system I don’t know what is.