If researchers are right, the creativity we all have as children rarely survives. Young writer Rebekah Harding may be one of the exceptions.
by Diane Helentjaris
Rebekah Harding is metamorphosing. Shedding the accoutrements of childhood, she’s closed down her blog “Beat Bias with Bekah.” Rather than online articles like “Weaponized Avocados Break Deli Clerk’s Jaw,” she has moved on to writing about adjusting to college life in “Away from home, alone” for The Temple News.
Last year she sparred with her Virginia high school administration over censorship. This year, as a Temple University freshman, she’s learning to navigate gritty, but urbane, Philadelphia. Already, Rebekah has given an on-the-street witness account to the police after a dust-up between snow cone purveyors and skillfully avoided being peed on by a horse ridden by a homeless man.
Those of us traveling this road ahead of her know she’ll be twisting and turning any number of ways through her future, but still, it seems pretty clear she’ll somehow be dancing with the written and spoken word along the way. Whether Rebekah ends up writing white papers or standing before a camera, her willingness and ability to clearly share her opinion, to speak up, and to tackle any number of obstacles is already in place. At eighteen, she appears to be among the few who keep a grasp on their creativity.
Each and every five-year-old — with the rarest of exception — will draw you a house, sing you a song and tell you what they think. For most, this charmingly fresh immediacy soon fades. As Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is to remain an artist once he grows up.”
Science bears Picasso out. In their 1993 book, Breaking Point and Beyond, Jarman and Land share provocative research results. Using a creativity test developed by NASA to identify innovative engineers and scientists, George Land assessed a cohort of children. While the test identified ninety-eight percent of the kids as creative at age five, by age fifteen only twelve percent remained so. And, by adulthood, the early results flipped. Only two percent of the 280,000 adults tested had creative characteristics. Land’s conclusion: non-creativity is a learned behavior.