The ‘Habit’ of Creativity And How to Develop It

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To the Editor:

I enjoyed Robert J. Sternberg’s Commentary immensely I enjoyed Robert J. Sternberg’s Commentary immensely ("Creativity Is a Habit," Feb. 22, 2006). It is critical that schools not forget the importance of open-ended work (as well as the time to do it—and not just occasionally) to the cultivation of the “habits” of creativity and innovation.

I was particularly struck by Mr. Sternberg’s comments about essay tests, which are often thought of as the answer to the rigidity of multiple-choice testing. It is important to realize that if rigid structures or templates are applied to supposedly open-ended formats (including portfolios, art, and performances), these can become ossified remnants of the creative purposes that created them.

In this regard, though, Mr. Sternberg’s suggestions for supporting creativity, and his examples of creative teaching, seem to slide back into the same standardization they are attempting to critique. While I agree with his premise—that it is important for schools to be places where creative thought is valued—there is something a bit mechanistic in his description of the ways to get there.

Also, to say that creativity is somehow dependent on reward (or praise) seems at odds with the very notion of creativity.

Mr. Sternberg says that creative people “habitually ... defy the crowd and stand up for their own beliefs,” which suggests that they don’t need praise or rewards to work creatively. If cultivating creativity is the goal, the work, even if not clearly valued, should be its own reward. Figuring out how we can help children understand that is vitally important to Mr. Sternberg’s goal.

Neal Wrightson
Los Angeles, Calif.

Vol. 25, Issue 27, Pages 36-37

Published in Print: March 15, 2006, as The ‘Habit’ of Creativity And How to Develop It

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