Science, mathematics and computing. That is all that mattered to my teachers in the Eighties, to the politicians who pressed schools for changes, to the corporations that started the pressing at the beginning of the chain. Many parents buckled and pressured their children to give up the arts and humanities in favour of the holy triumvirate of education under Margaret Thatcher. Faced with high unemployment and complete uncertainty about industry and the economy, it is surprising to hear of parents who resisted the cull of the artistic spirit.on their children.
Fast-forward and we are now a few generation deep in people who have learned tech and programming not in the classroom but at the home computer, but have also developed their writing and art in this way. What they have learned, and my generation is catching up with is that it was mistake to give up the arts and humanities. Perhaps this is why the earlier generations are turning to artistic endeavours en masse. Arts and humanities evening classes, online courses, podcasts, local chapters: whatever the venue, a generation scared away from the creative impulse are almost compulsively return to creativity.
Neither Jung nor Freud developed an adequate explanation of creative activity but they were right to prioritize creativity as a prime human endeavour that needed to be understood, and they were right to tie to development. What most psychologist would now agree to is that creativity, especially willful and unsupervised creativity, is a necessary part of developing a personality. Personality development, as the focus of study and research has focused on the early years. This period of development features the exploration and development of artistic, musical and social skills which is nourished during the school years. However, the study of older generations is focused on work, family and extended social development. In many ways, all this makes sense. We need to to make the best of early years to develop all kinds of learning, we need to make the best of our career years before we head out to establish our own families and networks of social support. But, there is more to the human story.
While researchers have not largely engaged with adult creativity except for professional purposes, the social media giants get it. It is arguable that the success of Youtube and the blogosphere was unexpected to those who developed them. The outpouring of creativity provided enormous amount of content that propelled these companies to unprecedented success. More surprising was the fact that creative output online is cross-generational, cross-gender and cross-class.
While it is sad to think of past generations of young people foregoing the love and learning of the arts and humanities, it is also perhaps inevitable that those generations could not suppress their creative urge. The human mind needs creativity to continue developing and it is ironic that it is tech that liberated this urge.
Let’s make it a permanent goal to ensure that every generation has the opportunity to express their creativity regardless of whether they intend to make a career of it or not. It is far too valuable to the human spirit to be limited to solely a work activity. So write, draw, sing, dance. It is in the end at least as important a human leap as inventing a computer chip.