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Societal Forces that ERODE Creativity


by Robert Sternberg & James C. Kaufman 2018

Background/Context: Creativity is an indispensable force in intellectual, social, cultural, and economic development. Yet societal forces conspire to erode it. Educators have despaired for many years over how schools often fail to encourage creativity, but society as a whole is just as guilty. But how do schools and society fail to encourage, or actually even erode, creativity? This essay addresses this question.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The goal of our research was to specify the specific societal forces that erode creativity. We have labeled these forces ERODE: Education, Resources, Opportunities, Diffusion, and Exaggeration. The bottom line is that, although our society claims to want creativity, it most wants it when no one is negatively affected. Because creativity almost always negatively affects some people and groups, society tends to be much more supportive of creativity in theory than in practice. We show why.

Research Design: Our research design is an analysis of the forces in society that erode creativity. We used historical analysis, media analysis, and analysis of educational practice to draw our conclusions.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 120 Number 5, 2018, p. 1-
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22093, Date Accessed: 12/12/2017 12:51:55 PM

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About the Author
  • Robert Sternberg
    Cornell University
    ROBERT J. STERNBERG is Professor of Human Development at Cornell University. His primary interests are intelligence, creativity, and wisdom. He is the author of What Universities Can Be (Cornell University Press, 2016) and senior editor of Scientists Making a Difference: One Hundred Eminent Behavioral and Brain Scientists Talk About Their Most Important Contributions (Cambridge University Press, 2016). He is editor of Perspectives on Psychological Science, a member of the National Academy of Education, and past president of the American Psychological Association.
  • James Kaufman
    University of Connecticut
    E-mail Author
    JAMES C. KAUFMAN is Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut. His primary interest is creativity; recent books include the second edition of Creativity 101 (Springer, 2016) and (with Ron Beghetto and John Baer) Creativity in the Common Core Classroom (Teachers College Press, 2014).
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