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Most children are creative geniuses, but the current school system stifles that, that's according to a former Nasa scientist.

Speaking at a TedxTuscon talk, scientist and author Dr George Land discussed a specialist test he devised to measure creativity in Nasa scientists and engineers. Intrigued by the results, Dr Land and Beth Jarman, who also conducted the test, started to wonder about the origins of creativity, and why some adults have it but others do not.

With these questions in mind, the duo decided to roll out the test to 1,600 schoolchildren between the ages of four and five. They were given challenges designed to test how they come up with different and innovative ideas to solve problems.

The results were surprising: 98 per cent of children fell into the “genius category” of creative imagination.

Alarmingly, when Dr Land returned five years later to test the children again, that percentage dropped to just 30 per cent.

By the time these children were 15, only 12 per cent exhibited genius levels of creative imagination. In adults, that percentage was miniscule – just two per cent.

How does this happen?

According to Dr Land, in America mass industrialisation was the first step:

Since we’re building a lot of these factories, we had to build factories for human beings too, called schools. So we could manufacture people that could work well in the factories.

He added that what we are taught in schools, he says, causes our brains to become conflicted, diminishing its power.

There are two kinds of thinking that occur in the brain and they use different parts of the brain and it’s a completely different paradigm of how we perform something in our minds.

One is called ‘divergent’ – that’s imagination, that’s generating new possibilities – and the other is ‘convergent’ and that’s where you’re making a judgement, a decision. You’re criticising, you’re evaluating.

So one is like an accelerator and one is like a brake, we found that what happens to these children as we educate them is we teach them to do both kinds of thinking at the same time.

So when somebody asks you to come up with new ideas, as you come up with them, what we mostly learn in school is to start looking at them immediately…

When you look at what’s happening inside the brain you see the neurons are fighting each other and diminishing the power of the brain. 

This isn’t going to work folks, you need to find the five year old.

Before you panic about lost opportunities, Dr Land says you haven't lost your creativity permanently.

That capability never goes away.

That part of the brain that produces this wonderful imagination is something you exercise every day when you’re dreaming.

All you need to do is practise.

You can view the entire talk here:

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