Eton is arguably the most successful school in the world. Huge numbers of its pupils go on to become leaders in every field of life from prime ministers to judges, to business moguls. Listening to Headmaster Tony Little it is clear. The culture of creative intelligence is the hidden secret.
The knowledge that they must lead a purposeful life and set targets for themselves is instilled in the boys. Each boy sleeps not in a dorm but in his own room. This gives him the space to develop his own sense of self and resilience in this supremely competitive environment. But there is also supportive camaraderie: “There is an expectation of excellence from each other” Little says.
Eton is a ‘magic circle’ a CQ creative cluster giving the boys lifelong support. It also provides exceptional CQ pivoting opportunities with fathers of friends happening to be influential players in this real life board game of snakes and ladders.
But schools kill creativity says the educationalist Sir Ken Robinson. He quotes a study of children which revealed that 98% were creative when they were of kindergarten age and that figure decreased as they grew older. Joe Hallgarten writing in the RSA Journal explains this: “Schools have no incentive to encourage creative development. It’s not welcomed, tested for or rewarded.” Robinson continues: “Children are educated out of creativity.” We need to find out what drives children from the inside because, as Robinson says “They are educated from the outside in”. He continues that because there is a regime of conformity to outdated rules “we do not discover the brilliant people these young people are”.
Another, rather forgotten but fascinating study of 1972 supports this theory: This study set out to establish whether creativity exists as a cognitive talent in its own right, separate from intelligence.. It is much harder to measure creativity than intelligence, but the researchers Wallach and Kogan* set up a series of tests to measure the childrens’ creative thinking. They tested their ability to think in a divergent way. For example, what are all the possible uses for a newspaper? ‘Rip it up if angry’ was a unique response, while ‘make paper hats’ was not. The researchers were interested in the number of ideas a child could suggest and the uniqueness of the suggested idea. The children were also tested for their intelligence.
When the results of the two tests were compared the indices for creativity and for intelligence tended to be independent of each other. One child high in creativity would be just as likely to be low in intelligence. Likewise a child low in creativity would as likely be high in intelligence. The chance that a child of high intelligence would also display high creativity was no more than 50/50.
There were 4 categories: Intelligent and creative; these were the most socially healthy and well balanced young people Low creativity – high intelligence: these children were unwilling to take any chances or offer opinions for fear of error. They performed v well in test situations. High creativity – low intelligence These children could not handle pressure or evaluation and so in fact their creativity was often not evident in classroom situations. They were the least able to concentrate in class, the lowest in self confidence and the most disruptive. Low creativity – low intelligence. These were surprisingly self confident and extrovert.
The study showed there is no correlation between the cognitive skill of creativity and the cognitive skill of intelligence (above a certain basic IQ level). The researchers concluded that the real problem was not their lack of either creativity or intelligence but that the children were disadvantaged by their motivational dispositions, ie excessive fear of evaluation by the high creativity-low intelligence group and fear of making mistakes by the low creativity-high intelligence group.
The report proposes in theory, at least, these kinds of motivational hindrances could be rectified by appropriate training procedures. This could result in thinking behaviour which might come to display high levels of both intelligence and creativity’ .
Very many creative thinkers have not been academically clever. Back in the early 20th century, an IQ test showed that William Shockley’s intelligence was not high enough (it was only medium) to be included in a US study of 1500 high IQ children. The children grew up to be successful, healthy and happy (most of them). Not one of them, however, achieved the success of Shockley who co created the transistor radio and was joint winner the Nobel Prize for Physics. His was one of the first high tech businesses in Silicon Valley - which then grew to become a highly effective and influential creative cluster and the hotbed of creative innovation it is now.
Tony Little feels that qualifications are only the start of education. “Self worth” is the word Tony Little uses to describe the quality Old Etonians possess. Little has self worth himself in spades but he came to Eton as a boy on a scholarship. His father worked at Heathrow airport. Little, not from the moneyed upper classes, is the very best example of successful education.
CQ is also evident in London schools, even in the state sector. Provincial pupils are ‘tongue-tied and short of confidence’ says Brett Wigdortz, Founder of Teach First, set up 12 years ago to encourage the brightest graduates to work in inner city schools. “There’s a sense of hopelessness which you don’t see in London any more… teachers say they struggle to tell children what a good education is for, because unless they leave the area, what are they doing this for? Conversely, he says “London children have millions of opinions and self confidence and feel like they can make change happen. They can see dynamism all around them, even in low-income areas, and opportunities all around them’.