"I discuss the subject of creativity with considerable hesitation, for it represents an area in which psychologists generally ... have feared to tread" (Guilford 1950). Thus opens J.P. Guilford's landmark 1950 presidential address to the American Psychological Association. Guilford, in his remarks about intelligence being a multidimensional construct, identified creativity as a vastly neglected domain of human capability, and he sought to rectify that. In preparation for that 1950 speech, he searched Psychological Abstracts and discovered only 123 resources related to creativity. Conversely, in a search of the 21st-century equivalent of Pychological Abstracts, I found over 5,000 articles; I found more than 4,000 book titles in Amazon.com's online book section--many books not yet even publicly available! This contrast demonstrates that today we can readily access numerous resources about the now very popular topic of creativity. Many of these resources originated in the domain of the education of gifted and talented students. How that focus came to be--and why we should encourage creativity in all students--are the topics of this article.
Blame It on the Government
First came the 1957 launch of the Soviet Sputnik I satellite, which started the space race and heralded a new era in American education. This event served to focus attention on preparing a new generation of mathematicians, scientists, and technological innovators to move the United States ahead in the space race and beyond. In 1958 the first large-scale funding of gifted education began, thanks to the National Defense Education Act. Then came the Civil Rights Act of 1964, intended to bring about equality to all people in this country, and that meant equity in education for all types of learners, including the gifted and talented (NAGC 2008), who were then, as now, considered the human capital who could help make and keep the United States the great country it is. Then:
In response to a mandate from the [U.S.] Congress (Public Law 91-230, Section 806), a study was conducted on the gifted and talented which consisted of five major activities: review of research, analysis of educational databases and the development of a major database, public hearings to interpret regional needs, studies of programs in representative states, and review and analysis of the system for delivery of Office of Education programs to benefit gifted and talented children. (Marland 1971, abstract)
This research was conducted because of an addition to Public Law 91-230, section 806, which is also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, which over the years has morphed into the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB 2002) of today. In the 1971 report submitted to the presidents of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, a primarily volunteer advisory panel of eleven researchers from coast to coast created a new definition for high ability/potential learners. Their definition was:
Gifted and talented children are those identified by professionally qualified persons who by virtue of outstanding abilities are capable of high performance. These are children who require differentiated educational programs and services...
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