Academic journal article Journal of Secondary Gifted Education

Understanding the Challenge of Creativity among African Americans

Academic journal article Journal of Secondary Gifted Education

Understanding the Challenge of Creativity among African Americans

Article excerpt

The relationship between creativity and intelligence, the recognition of creativity in students (a process that can be empirically documented), and the basic construct of creativity are the basis for much discussion. In adding a special population to the discussion, such as African Americans, who, as a group, have a special approach to creativity or method of exhibiting creativity, raises the level of discourse. As Banks (1988) has indicated, cultural behaviors can be distinct within an ethnic group, yet have an overlay from other cultures from the environment in which they exist. Many creative behaviors shown by African Americans overlap those of other cultures. The basic premise of creativity and its underlying principles exists in all populations, but the representation, manifestation, or melding of these principles varies within and among groups.

What Are We Saying About Creativity?

Clark (1988) outlined an integrated concept of creativity that includes: thinking (can be developed and measured); sensing (creation of new products or talent in a particular area); feeling (emotional energy from the creator); and intuition (high consciousness or high awareness of elements in the environment). Torrance, on the other hand, titled his book The Search for Satori & Creativity. The Japanese meaning of satori translates into what Americans might call an "a-ha" experience. Torrance (1979) explained satori as the highest point attainable, a sudden flash of enlightenment. Satori evolves when there has been "intensive, long-term, one-to-one relationship to a 'sensei"' (teacher). Above all, satori requires persistence, hard work, self-discipline, diligence, energy, effort, competence, expertness" (p. ix). This fits into what Clark called the thinking part of creativity.

Historical reports of the last decades are revealing more and more about the creative endeavors of African Americans. Unique problem-solving skills helped members of this population. survive in the face of many inequities. Little attention, however, has been paid to the relationship of these skills to creativity and, thus, to intelligence.

Hughes (1969), Kurtzman (1967), Stein (1962, as referenced in Clark, 1988) subscribed to several traits for the rationally thinking creative individual. Although the traits listed could apply to all populations, there are several that can be found most often among African American students.

* often anti-authoritarian;

These are:

* zany sense of humor;

* more adventurous;

* little tolerance for boredom; and

* high divergent thinking ability.

Clark's (1988) explanation of sensing, feeling, and intuition draws attention to similar characteristics or traits that also coincide with those found among African American children.

These include:

* a special kind of perception;

* more spontaneous and expressive;

* openness to experience, and new ideas;

* skilled performance of the traditional arts; and

* when confronted with novelty of design, music, or ideas, gets excited and involved (less creative people get suspicious and hostile; Clark, 1988).

Baldwin (1985) has listed some common characteristics and indicators that reflect creative traits. Her list coincides with those given above and reflects the integrated concept suggested by Clark (1988). Baldwin's list includes:

* language rich in imagery; humor, symbolism, and persuasion;

* logical reasoning, planning ability, and pragmatic problem-solving ability;

* sensitivity and alertness to movement; and

* resiliency to hardships encountered in the environment.

These traits are often exhibited in unusual and unacceptable classroom behaviors. Consequently, many teachers do not capitalize on these qualities to develop appropriate classroom activities that can develop new ideas through many media, become a catalyst for enhancing academic weaknesses, be a means for developing leadership skills, and promote a positive self-concept (Baldwin, 1985). …

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