Asking Questions

by Patrick Appel

Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman claim that American creativity is declining. Some of their conclusions are suspect, but much the research they round-up on creativity is new to me and well worth pondering:

Preschool children, on average, ask their parents about 100 questions a day. Why, why, whysometimes parents just wish it’d stop. Tragically, it does stop. By middle school they’ve pretty much stopped asking. It’s no coincidence that this same time is when student motivation and engagement plummet. They didn’t stop asking questions because they lost interest: it’s the other way around. They lost interest because they stopped asking questions.

Having studied the childhoods of highly creative people for decades, Claremont Graduate University’s Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and University of Northern Iowa’s Gary G. Gute found highly creative adults tended to grow up in families embodying opposites. Parents encouraged uniqueness, yet provided stability. They were highly responsive to kids’ needs, yet challenged kids to develop skills. This resulted in a sort of adaptability: in times of anxiousness, clear rules could reduce chaosyet when kids were bored, they could seek change, too. In the space between anxiety and boredom was where creativity flourished.