Why Some Cultures May Discourage Creativity

In some cultures creative people are viewed negatively, at least in certain contexts. According to Lubart, Lim and Plucker found that in Korea creative people are characterized by a set of deviant features - 'indifferent to others' opinions, headstrong, makes conflicts in working groups, is rude, is abnormal.' He also cited a study of Chinese teachers by Chan and Chan which suggests that nonconformity, expressiveness, and assertiveness are seen as characteristics of creative students, but viewed negatively in terms of rebelliousness, being opinionated, and being self-centerd.

But, as the snapshots in the previous section demonstrate, this phenomenon is not the prerogative of the East. Another example came from a Swedish study. Eriksson found that Swedish educators expressed ambivalent and negative attitudes toward the students they regarded as creative. They described them as a worrying element, wanting to do everything differently, unwilling to cooperate, adjusting badly to conventional tuition, troublesome in class, egocentric and egotistical, listless at the prospect of some subjects, cheeky, careless, coming up with strange ideas, and disobedient.

Similarly, Torrance's classic cultural study of teachers' attitudes to creative students revealed that, whilst all the cultures sampled had some values which supported creativity, teachers in the United States, Germany, Greece, India and the Philippines unduly valued characteristics associated with deference and making children easier to teach. Also employing Torrance's Ideal Pupil checklist, Ohuche found that the Igbo teachers in Nigeria highly valued industry, sincerity, obedience, consideration for others, and self confidence but neither nonconformity nor timidity. Using the same measure, Fryer, exploring over 1000 UK teachers' views on creativity in the mid to late 1980s, found that no single personality characteristic was selected for particular encouragement by even half her sample. The most popular were considerate and socially well-adjusted, followed by three characteristics normally associated with creativity: self confident, independent in thinking, and curious. It is possible that both practical considerations and cultural factors have a role to play in coloring teachers' views. Certainly a mistrust of imagination appears to have been deeply embedded in Western culture at least until the late eighteenth century. But as reported above, with the slimming down of the UK's national curriculum, increasing autonomy for schools and a heightened interest in creativity, education for creativity is now formally required and assessed in state schools in England (www.qcda.gov.uk).

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