Guidance workers have traditionally been interested in the vocational success of their clients. Indeed, the guidance movement got much of its impetus from this concern. Of course, it has long been recognized that creativity is a distinguishing characteristic of outstanding individuals in almost every field. It has been generally conceded that the possession of high intelligence, special talent, and technical skills is not enough for outstanding success. It has also been recognized that creativity is important in scientific discovery, invention, and the arts.
We are discovering now that creative thinking is important in success even in some of the most common occupations, such as selling in a department store. In one study it was found that saleswomen ranking in the upper third in sales in their departments scored significantly higher on tests of creative thinking than those who ranked in the lower third in sales. An interesting point in this study, however, is that the tests did a better job of discriminating the high and low selling groups in what the personnel managers considered routine sales jobs requiring no imagination than in the departments rated as requiring creative thinking. Thus, creative thinking appears to be important, even in jobs which appear to be quite routine.
Finally, educators are legitimately concerned that their students make useful contributions to our society. Such a concern runs deep in the code of ethics of the profession. It takes little imagination to recognize that the future of our civilization -- our very survival -- depends upon the quality of the creative imagination of our next generation.
Democracies collapse only when they fail to use intelligent, imaginative methods for solving their problems. Greece failed to heed such a warning by Socrates and gradually collapsed. What is called for is a far cry from the model of the quiz-program champion of a few years ago. Instead of trying to cram a lot of facts into the minds of children and make them scientific encyclopedias, we must ask what kind of children they are becoming. What kind of thinking do they do? How resourceful are they? Are they becoming more responsible? Are they learning to give thoughtful explanations of the things they do and see? Do they believe their own ideas to be of value? Can they share ideas and opinions with others? Do they relate similar experiences together in order to draw conclusions? Do they do some thinking for themselves?
We also need more than well-rounded individuals. We ordinarily respect these well-rounded individuals, broad scholars, and men of many talents. An emotional deficiency disease, a paralysis of the creative imagination, an addition to superficials -- this is the diagnosis I would offer to account for the greater part of the widespread desperation of our time. Paralysis of the imagination, I suspect, would also account, in part, for the fact that the great majority of us, wedded to comfort so long as we both shall live, are turning our eyes away from the one thing we should be looking at: the possibility or probability of co-extermination.