ISET

ISET Economist Blog

A blog about economics in the South Caucasus.

Outsmarting Laziness: The Most Evil Giant of All Giants

Creativity is the ability to produce new ideas and to find innovative solutions to problems. It is crucial for economic growth because creative ideas translate into new products and more efficient technological processes, which, in turn, generate new (more productive) jobs and better (more competitive) products. 

Besides, the “creative class” (e.g. scientists, engineers, writers, artists, designers, painters, actors, firm producers, musicians, choreographers and just anybody able to think out-of-the-box) affects economic performance in a myriad of indirect ways, through knowledge spillovers that boost labor productivity and innovation activities throughout the economy. It is well-documented that innovative ideas are often born over beer!

While we all love creativity and innovation, the million dollar question is how to raise a new generation that will think creatively. Which is related to another question: can creativity be learned or, else, is it an innate talent?


CHILDREN ARE CURIOUS AND CREATIVE!

Children are naturally curious, observing and questioning everything they see and hear. Moreover, the vast majority of children have very well developed imagination capability which is key for creativity. To measure just how creative children are, George Land used a test similar to the one he devised to help NASA select innovative engineers and scientists. His results are truly mind boggling! Around 98% of 4-5 year old children have very strong creative imagination and fall into the “genius” category according to the NASA test. When the same children were re-tested at the age of 10 and 15, however, only 30% and 12% of them, respectively, had creative capability. Still worse, when re-tested at the age of 31, the share of creative individuals shrank to only 2%!


SCHOOLS KILLING CREATIVITY? 

Sir Ken Robinson, an education specialist, argues that creativity and talent are effectively killed by … schools. Modern schools have been created in the 19th century to deliver basic education to the illiterate masses. What is increasingly needed in the 21 century, however, is an individual approach. 

Robinson’s favorite example is Gillian Lynne, a renowned ballerina who was diagnosed with a learning disorder at the age of eight. Lynne’s teachers were annoyed by her constant fidgeting and a lack of concentration. A psychologist who was asked to examine her case was clever enough to turn on music and leave Gillian alone in the room to observe her behavior. His verdict surprised Gillian’s parents: “your daughter is not sick – she is a dancer”. Gillian went on to a ballet school and became one of the greatest choreographers in history, authoring such musical productions as "Cats" and "Phantom of the Opera”. What Lynne’s story illustrates is the obvious advantage of an individual approach to education, an approach that encourages curiosity and develops innate talents. 

AN EXPERIMENT IN NURTURING GENIUSES: THE CASE OF JUDIT POLGAR

Laszlo Polgar, a Hungarian cognitive psychologist, believed that “any healthy born child has the innate capacity to become a genius”. Driven by this idea, he examined the biographies of 400 great intellectuals and concluded that “geniuses are made, not born”. To test this theory, he chose to marry a Ukrainian foreign languages teacher who agreed to run an experiment. As crazy as it sounds, the purpose of the experiment was to check whether they could turn their children into geniuses using a very simple prescription: “early and intensive specialization in a particular subject”. Being homeschooled, the couple’s three daughters (Susan, Sofia and Judit) specialized in chess at the age of 6. By their early teens, the Polgar sisters started dominating the female chess world. In particular, Judit is considered to be the best woman chess player in history. She has also fascinating memory and is among the top 10 most intelligent people of the world according to an IQ brain test. Susan and Sofia came to be ranked 2nd and 6th in the world. Polgar and his wife said later that “they could do the same thing with any subject, if a child starts early, spends lots of time and gives great love to that one subject”. In other words, they believed that innate talent is less important for success. Instead, greatness is all about curiosity and hard work.

With ‘literacy’ and ‘knowledge’ no longer being the key challenges facing humans, we have to make sure that tomorrow’s schools are fit for tomorrow’s challenges. Which is all about creativity and innovation. Incidentally, this very idea has not been lost one of Georgia’s greatest educators, Ilia Chavchavadze. The main purpose of a school, he would often say, is not to endow knowledge but to enhance children's curiosity. And what was true already at Ilya’s time is especially true today, at a time when ‘knowledge’ as such is easily accessible through the internet. What is demanded nowadays is the ability to synthesize, to connect seemingly unrelated pieces of knowledge, concepts and theories, and come up with new solutions.


AND GEORGIAN SCHOOLS? 

It is worth considering that Georgian schools still follow the basic 19th century school model with its emphasis on memorizing standard texts and formulas rather than independent thinking. Students are rewarded for giving good (standard) answers rather than for asking good (original) questions. Achievement is measured based on standardized test and grades. 

In other words, learning is supposed be driven by extrinsic incentives (e.g. tests and grades), whereas curiosity and creativity are always a function of intrinsic motives such as passion for a subject. This may be a key reason for poor attendance and, generally, a lack of interest in education that we often observe among Georgian schoolchildren (particularly in rural areas). 

An additional problem with this outdated school education model is that creativity requires a mindset that considers failure as a legitimate part of the process, which is clearly not how Georgian schools operate. As Sir Ken Robinson suggests, “children are creative because they are not afraid to make mistakes, but they are educated out of it with systems that make them afraid of making mistakes”. This is certainly true for most Georgian schools.


BUT AREN’T WE, GEORGIANS A CREATIVE PEOPLE?!

Georgians are a very artistic people. When a Georgian man suddenly discovers he has only one more day to live he decides, rather creatively, to throw a huge party (as the Georgian classic ‘Ar-daidardo’ knows to tell). Indeed, Georgians have an international reputation for being very good in arts and design, as well as in dancing, singing and winemaking (and wine-drinking). Importantly for the purpose of this essay, most Georgians are themselves convinced they are a talented nation, believing, in addition, that talent is passed on genetically from generation to generation. 

For a typical Georgian, success is rarely achieved through hard work. Moreover, as some popular jokes and stories go, those people who work hard demonstrate a lack of talent. The role model for many Georgian boys is the “talented but lazy” Natsarkekia, the main character of a popular fairy tale, who spends all his time sitting in front of a fireplace (hence his name, which literally translates as "Cinder-man") and doing nothing. Natsarkekia finally gets his act together when thrown out of his house. Using his smarts he defeats evil giants and becomes very rich. 

In contrast to Georgia, talent is not assumed in the Korean culture. Instead, Koreans believe in hard work and discipline, sometimes at the expense of creativity. By copy-pasting and efficiently applying existing technological solutions, Korea has been for many years considered a miracle of economic growth. Its development, however, has slowed down once true innovation was required in order to remain competitive. 

Lacking in organizational skills and discipline, Georgia would not have any comparative advantages in trying to copy-paste existing technologies. We can only rely on our fabled talents. Maybe, just last Natsarkekia, we are waiting to be kicked out of our house before outsmarting the most evil giant of all giants, our own laziness.

Rate this blog entry:
8 Comments

Related Posts

Comments

 
Guest - Salome on Friday, 05 June 2015 12:23

Very good article. I would say that problems with Georgian schools are not unique for Georgia and I believe that most of the schools in the world are following more or less the same strategies which rely on standardized tests and subjects, not individual approach etc. Some of the schools might be more modern than others but there are no big differences in how they teach. Positive thing about school is that it teaches discipline, helps to build networks and communication abilities.
Both schools and parents should help kids find out what they are good at. But schools cannot have individual approach due to the large number of students and parents usually don't have enough time to spend with their children. That's why whatever ability we are born with is gradually lost along the way.

Very good article. I would say that problems with Georgian schools are not unique for Georgia and I believe that most of the schools in the world are following more or less the same strategies which rely on standardized tests and subjects, not individual approach etc. Some of the schools might be more modern than others but there are no big differences in how they teach. Positive thing about school is that it teaches discipline, helps to build networks and communication abilities. Both schools and parents should help kids find out what they are good at. But schools cannot have individual approach due to the large number of students and parents usually don't have enough time to spend with their children. That's why whatever ability we are born with is gradually lost along the way.
Guest - Lasha Lanchava on Friday, 05 June 2015 15:09

Interesting and fun to read article! And it raises an extremely interesting questions. But, it feels like the million dollar question is not handled sufficiently.
The need for individual approach is correctly outlined, But as Salome said, individual approach requires resources and is not clear who is going to take the responsibility or if it can be handled in a cost effective way. In my view, it entails 'Who guards the guardians' sort of a question.

Interesting and fun to read article! And it raises an extremely interesting questions. But, it feels like the million dollar question is not handled sufficiently. The need for individual approach is correctly outlined, But as Salome said, individual approach requires resources and is not clear who is going to take the responsibility or if it can be handled in a cost effective way. In my view, it entails 'Who guards the guardians' sort of a question.
Guest - Eric Livny on Friday, 05 June 2015 15:18

Lasha, you are absolutely right. 19th century-style schools can do better in terms of adopting a more individual approach to education (as many private schools do), but they would have to be staffed by people with very different skills and motivations. That's not going to happen any time soon in a poor country like Georgia.

I would think that somewhere in the Silicon Valley and in Israel people are already working on online solutions supporting alternative approaches to mass education, approaches that would make learning less teacher-dependent, with the classroom used primarily for social interactions, projects, discussions, etc. Certainly not for old-style lecturing.

Lasha, you are absolutely right. 19th century-style schools can do better in terms of adopting a more individual approach to education (as many private schools do), but they would have to be staffed by people with very different skills and motivations. That's not going to happen any time soon in a poor country like Georgia. I would think that somewhere in the Silicon Valley and in Israel people are already working on online solutions supporting alternative approaches to mass education, approaches that would make learning less teacher-dependent, with the classroom used primarily for social interactions, projects, discussions, etc. Certainly not for old-style lecturing.
Guest - Martin Smith on Friday, 05 June 2015 18:31

I do not see what the Georgian nation has come up with, sorry.... You said, "The 'talented but lazy' Georgian nation has to come up with a creative solution to kill one of its greatest nemeses." This implied quite a lot that was unfair and slanted for a start. But I have read the article several times and have yet to find out what happened, when, and how, and what effect it had on what.

I do not see what the Georgian nation has come up with, sorry.... You said, "The 'talented but lazy' Georgian nation has to come up with a creative solution to kill one of its greatest nemeses." This implied quite a lot that was unfair and slanted for a start. But I have read the article several times and have yet to find out what happened, when, and how, and what effect it had on what.
Guest - Eric Livny on Friday, 05 June 2015 19:29

Martin, the article does not really discuss what happened, when, and how... there are no statistics... only a lot of what we call "anecdotal evidence" of Natsarkekia type behavior, except that the ending is not as good in most cases. I see and hear about a lot of very intelligent grown up boys living living with their moms. Boys who've never worked a single day, and who have no ambitions to really change anything in their lifes. Boys who don't even bother to do their dishes but have dreams of winning in a lottery or casino.

Martin, the article does not really discuss what happened, when, and how... there are no statistics... only a lot of what we call "anecdotal evidence" of Natsarkekia type behavior, except that the ending is not as good in most cases. I see and hear about a lot of very intelligent grown up boys living living with their moms. Boys who've never worked a single day, and who have no ambitions to really change anything in their lifes. Boys who don't even bother to do their dishes but have dreams of winning in a lottery or casino.
Guest - Martin Smith on Friday, 05 June 2015 20:36

There is no culture of dishes here! The kibbutz and the Georgian male are at 180 degrees. To be honest, we should meet... . and start talking! Already - you have enriched my life! Florian sees it one way, you, another, me (horrendously critical - I know!) a third way, and Georgians a fourth way. I hereby invite you, Florian, a Georgian of my choice, your wife and myself (and maybe a Frenchman!) to a meal on La Bastille Day! 14 July. Choice of venue and time up to you! How about - Zachar Zacharichi?

There is no culture of dishes here! The kibbutz and the Georgian male are at 180 degrees. To be honest, we should meet... . and start talking! Already - you have enriched my life! Florian sees it one way, you, another, me (horrendously critical - I know!) a third way, and Georgians a fourth way. I hereby invite you, Florian, a Georgian of my choice, your wife and myself (and maybe a Frenchman!) to a meal on La Bastille Day! 14 July. Choice of venue and time up to you! How about - Zachar Zacharichi?
Guest - Martin Smith on Friday, 05 June 2015 20:37

No invitation was ever moderated!

No invitation was ever moderated!
Nodar on Saturday, 30 April 2016 23:19

Professor Livny I agree that schools killing creativity. It hinders the development of creativity in the way such that teachers teaching the students, not give them ways to learn . You may think that teachers duties are to teach and how they can give the students ways to learn? Answer is that, teachers teach the students what they learned and how they learned it. They killed creativity inside them and involuntarily or voluntarily they want to kill it inside the new generation. It should be the case that teachers have to give to students only ways and let them to learn themselves.This will further develop childrens creativity and I think this would be the correct way in this context. I recall the story about Neils Bohr when he had trouble with his teacher while the teacher was trying to teach him using a thousand times tried formulas and theories. Neils had his own solution but teacher said that it was incorrect. After 14 years ago from this story Neils Bohr received Nobel Prize. [ http://www.kvirispalitra.ge/history/23388-suleli-nils-bori.html?add=1] unfortunately it is in Georgian. Moreover, we Georgians are proud of our creativity at least as the story of Natsarkekia says but one day we will be kicked out of our house and our fabled talents will no longer help us.

Professor Livny I agree that schools killing creativity. It hinders the development of creativity in the way such that teachers teaching the students, not give them ways to learn . You may think that teachers duties are to teach and how they can give the students ways to learn? Answer is that, teachers teach the students what they learned and how they learned it. They killed creativity inside them and involuntarily or voluntarily they want to kill it inside the new generation. It should be the case that teachers have to give to students only ways and let them to learn themselves.This will further develop childrens creativity and I think this would be the correct way in this context. I recall the story about Neils Bohr when he had trouble with his teacher while the teacher was trying to teach him using a thousand times tried formulas and theories. Neils had his own solution but teacher said that it was incorrect. After 14 years ago from this story Neils Bohr received Nobel Prize. [ [b]http://www.kvirispalitra.ge/history/23388-suleli-nils-bori.html?add=1[/b]] unfortunately it is in Georgian. Moreover, we Georgians are proud of our creativity at least as the story of Natsarkekia says but one day we will be kicked out of our house and our fabled talents will no longer help us.
Already Registered? Login Here
Register
Guest
Friday, 16 April 2021

Captcha Image

Our Partners