Defining Creativity - Through the Eyes of a Teen

This morning I was sharing some tidbits of a news article, mostly because the article was ridiculous. It reported nothing new and could not seem to develop a single idea, instead, jumping about randomly. This was published online at one of those Giant News Sources. For their sake, I will not say which one is producing such pointless and mundane writing.

Anyhow, I digress. I shared that a special school in the Silicon Valley purportedly develops creativity by holding classes in tree houses.

My son’s response “People just don’t seem to understand creativity these days.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

15-year-old: “They think anything new is creative.”

(My son is an artist, and a dancer, full of new ideas, sometimes amazing insights, other times disastrous messes.)

Me: “How would you define creativity?” (I know sometimes he assumes words have completely different meanings than they do, his intuition in the area of vocabulary is a bit off.)

Teen boy: “Creativity is the ability to take what you have available and use it in the best way possible.”


Me: “That sounds a bit like the definition of being efficient.”

Son: “Well, yes, it takes a lot of creativity to be efficient.”

Me: “Is there any reason you think it would be a good idea to have a class in a treehouse?”

Son: “If you are studying etymology.”

Dad wisely intervenes: “Why would you want to be in a treehouse while you study etymology?”

Son: “So the bugs you are studying can fly in and you can look at them.”

Dad: “Are you sure you mean etymology?”

Son contemplates for a moment. “Oh…entomology?”

Dad: “Yes.”

(That last bit was just too give you wordsmiths out there a little chuckle.)

Now, first off, I am not dissing the idea of school in a treehouse, sounds fun and novel. But also, not necessary to develop creativity. Being outside is great, and we don’t spend enough time there.

But what is the definition of creativity? Is every new idea creative? Is my son onto something?

Merriam Webster defines creativity as the ability to make new things or think of new ideas.

I like the definition at much better: the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.

Emphasis on the word meaningful is my own. I think this is what my son was driving at; if a new idea is random and useless, how is that creative?

But it is somewhat popularized that anything new or different is creative. But there are not as many new ideas in this world as we think. Ideas mostly become new when we connect old ideas together in a new way.

Treehouses are old. School is old. School in a treehouse is a new idea. How helpful is it to developing creativity? I would argue not much. It may be pleasant. It may be fun. It may be calming because nature is soothing. But teaching kids to think is more important to creativity than where you are while you are teaching them how to think.

Creativity does require the creation of many ideas, the classic brainstorm. But we also then need to do the next step, throw out all the stupid ideas. Keep the best ones, and then make something awesome.

Now I don’t want to pick on this school. I doubt they made a treehouse classroom because they thought it would magically teach kids how to be creative. I think the reporter had no understanding of the school or how it worked and just picked two things it had i.e. a desire to teach creativity, and a classroom treehouse, and amateurishly shoved them together.

That is how most of the ideas in the article went. Random thoughts crammed together incoherently. It was a new article. But it was certainly not creative.

I hope I have been coherent.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.