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On Freeing a Child to Be Creative

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To the Editor:

Re “How to Raise a Creative Child

What Adam Grant says about the relationship between freedom and creativity is so true. But now I fear that the tiger moms and dads will decide that they can mass-produce creative children merely by cutting back on rules and letting their children follow their hearts. I would argue that the sources of creativity are deeper than that: Creative children tend to have creative parents who encourage and value creativity in their offspring.

And if a child does become creative, what then? Not everyone has the gifts or good fortune to achieve success in a creative field. How many bands actually hit the charts? How many novels become best sellers, or are even published? I have seen creative friends struggle for years to break into a field against astronomical odds; most ended up with day jobs.

The truth is, unless he’s one of a handful of stars, and often even then, the creative person will be punished for his creativity at every stage of his life. School rewards students for completing simple exercises according to schedule. At work, most of the profit and frequently the credit for art and invention accrue to others. Create something too sophisticated, and it won’t be understood. Create something uninspiring, and it will be condemned.

Creativity and talent are intrinsically fulfilling, but they are cruel taskmasters: Modern society offers the creative person few opportunities, and fewer rewards.


New London, Conn.

To the Editor:

As the parent of two teenage boys who are passionate about building remote-controlled airplanes and now drones, I agree with some of the observations made in the article. My younger son feels very bored and unmotivated in school. However, he not only stays up till 3 a.m. to finish a drone that flies up to 400 feet and takes aerial shots, but also programs electronic chips, makes and sells online special antennas for remote-controlled planes, and solders like a professional.

All of this has been possible because both parents have set him free from any specific rules. While we expect a code of respect for his teachers and elders, we do not emphasize grades in school. Since the boys were young, my husband tinkered and did projects with both of them for fun.


Summit, N.J.

To the Editor:

As a former Westinghouse Science Talent Search finalist, I completely disagree with Adam Grant that not winning a Nobel Prize or getting into the National Academy of Sciences implies that you are no longer scientifically creative.

I am as passionate about science as I was in high school when I did my Westinghouse project. I currently run a National Institutes of Health-funded research lab working on mechanisms of cancer biology, and I like to think that I still do creative science. Many past Westinghouse finalists are doing similar work.

While we might never win a Nobel, we are solving interesting and important scientific problems, and training future generations of scientists. Measuring creativity in science by the ability to accumulate prizes is very shortsighted.

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