One of our most precious and powerful resources is the human mind in all its diversities. We have been told that “the mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Our society, along with most of our schools, has been unintentionally wasting some of the highest level of thinking talents in a big way. Certainly our educational system has been failing to capitalize on the natural creative and critical thinking talents of students of all ages.
From the beginning of their schooling children are forced into the rigid system of categories simply on the basis of their chronological age with little regard for the nature of their individual thinking styles and levels of intellect. The system then force fits them into a standardized learning experience with measures of achievement based on standardized testing.
Serious frustrations over the misfits of a smart, creative spirit in a standardized, authoritarian school experience can be the reason for dropouts, negative behavior, and loss of spirit and motivation. The loss to society for failure to understand how to recognize and reward creative and innovative young minds that demonstrate an aptitude for deep, independent thinking, for the mental capacity to make judgments that are fair and aware of possible future developments ……that failure deprives society of some of its most potent human resources and competent leadership.
If we continue to fail to recognize these God-given natural talents and if we succomb to the tyranny of the absolute numbers game in our assessment of achievement, we are wasting the preciouos resource of human complex thought.
Fifty years ago Dr. E.. Paul Torrance understood the value of creative potential and created the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. It is one of his most enduring gifts to education for identifying and cultivating creative potential. The creative mind really is a terrible thing to waste.
Retired University Professor and Author
4300 West River Pkwy #227
Minneapolis, MN 55406
Now that the failures of our education systems are becoming the subject of
increasing public interest and opinion, we can expect to see more calls for
reform of traditional teaching and of “top-down” control administration
practices. Alternative education practices are providing plenty of examples
of improved student achievement and models of successful teaching practices.
The missing connection is that the name of Dr. E. Paul Torrance almost never
appears, although he spent a lifetime creating a legacy of resources that
establishes the the academic authenticity of his education philosophies,
applications, and identification and development of creative potential in
children and adults. One of his many books is titled, “Save Tomorrow for the
Children”. It is time for alternative education to trickle up to the power
centers and to follow the lead of Paul Torrance, “The Creativity Man” in its
search for answers to educational failures like the Achievement Gap.
Retired University Professor and Author
WOULDN’T YOU THINK…..
Wouldn’t you think it would have become clear to centers of power in public education that the system isn’t working? Public records provide plenty of evidence that student dropout rates, student achievement rates, criminal behavior and juvenile delinquency, the number of investigations of corruption in government and public office, and the evidence of a general trend in society toward disrespect for traditional moral standards are becoming an embarrassment to a democracy of, by, and for the people. Wouldn’t you think that there would be some outcry for radical changes in what we teach, how we teach it, and who does the teaching?
Certainly parenting and economics have some influence on a student’s response to schooling. It could be argued, however, that the years of mandated education in the company of peers, grouped only by chronological age and subject to the judgment of their classmates has at least as much impact on response and motivation to learning.
Some individual learning and thinking styles are poorly served in the current school experience. Now that the concept of Right and Left Brain Hemispheres is becoming better understood, a case can be made for a major change in official curriculum and instruction programs. There is an urgent need for balancing instruction between Right Brain and Left Brain thinking requirements.
For more than fifty years Dr. E. Paul Torrance spelled out for educators the discipline of Creative Education, including the psychology and human behavior of the creative personality. His legacy of resources for improved education stands waiting for official application. The Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking® (TTCT) make possible the identification of creative potential in children, youth, and adults. Recognizing and nurturing Right Brain, creative expression along with traditional Left Brain requirements would bring a welcome balance to the school experience.
The dynamically changing world and human society need complex, whole brain thinking. (Please see Daniel Pink’s book, “A Whole New Brain.”) Most humans have the potential for both Right Brain and Left Brain functioning. If Left Brainers were educated to cultivate their Right Brain capacities and Right Brainers were better trained in the discipline of Left Brain thinking, we would be creating a bridge of understanding that will serve the evolution of the human mind and raise the intellectual level of our democracy to a higher plane. Wouldn’t you think?
Something very important is about to happen in the educational establishment. Enlightened teachers and administrators are protesting the current government focus on measuring and testing as the sole basis for assessing learning. They understand that real learning is more complicated than scoring on standardized tests with their principal measurement of short term memory and right answer skills while overlooking evidence of higher order learning and thinking qualities in individual students.
Successful teachers know that quality learning, which depends upon connecting the learner in some realistic way to the lesson, is a critical piece of the teaching process. Qualitative factors of learning like spirit, expectations, self-esteem, confidence, and self-expression have long been recognized features of effective teaching by many teachers. The current government pressure on educators for assessment of learning, based essentially on repeated standardized testing of students, is raising voices of protest among serious educators. I want to add my voice to their protest in the hope that official centers of education will begin to act more upon the understanding that what is not countable really counts in the educational experience and that accounting for the uncountable is an educational obligation.
Philosophers and educationists have been doing their best to bring about a better balance in education between quantitative thinking and qualitative thinking in the way we teach and learn. A long time ago William Blake gave us the theory of “The Doors of Perception.” Some years later Fantini and Weinstein made the case for a balance between symbol-based learning and experience-based learning in their theory of the “Cone of Experience.” John P. Guilford contributed his comprehensive theory in his “Model of the Structure of Intellect” that gave us a window into the understanding of intellectual levels and how to recognize and cultivate complex thinking that includes equal parts of quantitative and qualitative thought. He gave us a road map for understanding that it’s not about a number that tells us “How smart are you”? It’s a way of understanding “How are YOU smart”?
Then came the genius of Dr. E. Paul Torrance who labored for fifty years to produce and teach the understanding of the special qualities of thought that prepare the mind to make maximum use of its potential for qualitative and especially creative thinking. His legacy continues to lead the world in the educational breakthrough for a balance between the dependence on counting and measuring and the qualitative factors that define the individual creative thinking aptitudes present in everyone. The Torrance® Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) are of increasing attention as we continue to look for answers to the overriding problems of the Achievement Gap in test scores of students of different ethnicities and the alarming school dropout rate.
The Torrance message of the nature and nurture of creative potential in education begun during his seven years of leadership at the University of Minnesota, producing a vast following of students and colleagues that reached worldwide and continues its commitment to the Torrance Legacy. Official University response was based on traditions of standardized educational practices and quantitative research with no perception of the individual qualitative factors that influence thought and learning. With little or no support from the academic centers, the Torrance leadership continues to serve the dedicated and enlightened educational community without acknowledgment from official academia, and the government continues its standardized testing and retesting, comparing and punishing with little or no change in curriculum and instruction. A recent statement by a retired member of the Minnesota Office of Education reflects the attitude of many educational power centers when confronted with a new idea for improved education. “Many of the Socialists dropped out once they were through pushing their agenda. But just think what we would have missed without these interesting people.” The belittling nature of this statement is a clue to the kind of dismissal that traditional authority often offers to new ideas and educational practices; it testifies to the reason the educational system continues to fail so many students and all of society.
Now add the arrival on the scene of a popular best seller that is bringing the message of differences and possibilities of human thought to public attention. “A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future” by Daniel Pink is expanding the studies of human differences in thinking processes to apply across the broad sweep of human society and its evolving picture. His argument for a balance between right- and left-brain dominance applies directly to teaching and learning principles and is reaching the public mind for demanding attention to the failure of traditional educational practices.
Bee Bleedorn, Ph.D.
The time has come to bring public attention to the prevailing problem of academic achievement and human potential in students of all ages. The Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking® (TTCT) were designed by one of the most respected scholars of our time, Dr. E. Paul Torrance, whose work at the University of Minnesota and the University of Georgia became a guiding light in studies of creative potential and human behavior.
It is a dismaying fact that relatively few educators and parents are acquainted with his Tests of Creative Thinking. The Torrance Tests provide directions for administering and scoring student responses that will show creative potential in any field of special talent.
If you wonder how you or your students rank in terms of creative potential, look to the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking for an academic, well researched assessment of creative thinking and behavior. Identifying and serving the educational needs of creatively talented students can provide answers for many serious problems of the educational experience.
For more information on the TTCT, contact Scholastic Testing Service, Inc at 1 (800) 642-6787 or visit the website at www.ststesting.com.
Maybe kids aren’t getting all the right answers in the standardized tests of No Child Left Behind vintage, but there are places where they are practicing the art of thinking at higher levels of their intellectual potential and loving it. The Future Problem Solving Program designed by Dr. E. Paul Torrance in 1980 is engaging the higher order thinking minds of students and stimulating excitement for their learning and thinking all over the world. The program leads teams of students from fourth grade to seniors in High School through a series of steps that invite analytical, systemic, imaginative, critical, and visionary thinking. The final result is a recommendation for solutions of an assigned problem relevant to the future. Not only do they have the freedom to think about serious matters but they are enjoying the pleasure and satisfaction of having their creative ideas heard and respected.
The Future Problem Solving Program is conducted essentially by volunteers. A recent visit to the Minnesota 2008 Problem Solving Program Annual Competition directed by Cheryl Whitesitt was a revelation. It was evident that the practice of structured, open-ended thinking in a classroom climate that respects a student’s right to express creative and critical ideas without the threat of immediate rejection helped to cultivate confidence and enthusiasm in students. An auditorium filled with kids, parents, coaches, and volunteers, who were excited about serious problem-solving skills, cheered enthusiastically when the trophies were awarded. The joy of young, bright, enthusiastic minds that are offered the freedom to think and be heard —-such an experience rekindles the confidence that all of society is hoping to feel for the future of the world.
Dr. Berenice D. Bleedorn
Educators interested in giving traditional teaching methods a “makeover” should check out this article by education scholar and Torrance devotee, Dr. Berenice Bleedorn. Go to www.amcreativityassoc.org.
It was October 1969, my first year on faculty in the Division of Elementary Education at the University of Georgia in Athens, when I had a visitor at my office door. It was Dr. Paul Torrance, then Chair of the Division of Educational Psychology to welcome me to Georgia. We developed a wonderful research collaboration and grew to become trusting friends, remaining so until his death on July 12, 2003.
Paul always said “Maybe so” when I came to him with an hypothesis; whether I had proposed that the Piaget conservation tasks were convergent and therefore may yield misleading results with creative children, or when I posed that slow learners — not only the gifted and talented — can be creative. I could see his brain churning as he sat next to my desk in my small office in Aderhold Hall, while he generated the title of the upcoming presentation of our research that I would present at the First World Congress on Future Special Education at the University of Stirling in Scotland in July 1978. When we would apply for grants or other challenges, Paul’s usual expression was “Luck to us!” with a lilt in his voice and a twinkle in his eye.
Paul was also a wonderful co-author on our recently published trilogy on Learning Mathematics Creatively (2002). I shall always cherish our many phone conversations and voluminous email exchanges during our long distance collaboration. Paul’s 60 years of research formed the structure for gifted student programs in schools worldwide. His Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking first published in 1962, are widely used today as are his over 1100 publications both for applied research as well as original research.
The American Creativity Association has honored Dr. Torrance with its annual E.Paul Torrance Graduate Student Research Award presented for outstanding graduate dissertation or masters thesis. Thus far, the doctoral studies of six students from Drexel, UGA, and Columbia have been recognized.
Great teachers are hard to come by. I was drawn to Paul (with whom I took every doctoral level course) by his kindness and integrity — and found my greatest teacher! The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obituary captured my memories of Paul: “He saw genius in school troublemakers and encouraged children (and I add adults also) to think beyond…”
Fredricka K. Reisman is a professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA.
Click the play button to view this video about Dr. Torrance.
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