How to play during the Cold War?: The making up of the creative child

The concept of creativity is not a natural and neither it is a neutral ingredient in the ways we have to classify a child (Martins, 2014). Even if the history of childhood creativity goes back, at least, to the 19th century and before with names such as Rousseau, Pestalozzi or Froebel, it was essentially in the Post-World War II that we can assist to a boom in its study (Bycroft, 2012). Childhood was considered as the place to search for the lost time of creativity. The understanding of the creative paths of the mind would open up avenues for social and economic values, answering to cultural anxieties derived from the Cold War. J.P. Guilford, who directed a research unit at the U.S. Army and Air Force, was supported with grants to study creativity through an approach on the nature of the human mind. From the study of mental operations to the measurement of creativity, Guilford and his followers insisted on the importance of bringing creative methods and nurturing creativity in the child’s development. But they were not alone in highlighting the potential of creation in the constructing of a new, better and more egalitarian society and the raising of better children for the future. The paper will focus on the study of the creative movement in the Post-World War II psychological and educational sciences, and how these ‘findings’ travelled from the laboratory to the child’s environment. What I am interested in is in questioning the ways in which the Post-World War II sciences infiltrated daily life and organized ways of being and thinking that made creativity seem reasonable and natural in the making up of the Post World War child. As childhood was perceptioned as the place of origin of creativity, attention was given to the children’s play activities, the objects to play with, the time and the spaces of childhood (Ogata, 2013). A whole ‘pedagogical industry’ emerged in the United States, but was also brought into Europe. I will concentrate on some American and European artist-designer-educators who invested in the creation of ‘creative’ children’s toys, books, educational activities or spaces to play. Actually, my focus will not be the ‘persona’ but rather the entaglements between a scientific way of reasoning about the child and its multiple materializations into the everyday level of childhood and its government. The ‘design culture’ (Highmore, 2014) around the creative child defined a series of objects and practices which were the materialization of the psychological concerns on childhood creativity. These ideas governed, until today, the practices through which the child is taught and raised up at home and in school, and choices are made relating to children’s exercises, toys, books or play activities and its time-spaces for the making up of the creative child. The naturalization of creativity as part of childhood overlooks difference, although, at the same time, creativity as a ‘commodity’ brings the promise of exclusivity classifying who is the creative child and who is not that child.

Event Title ISCHE 40 Education and Nature
Comunication Title How to play during the Cold War?: The making up of the creative child
Date 29 of August of 2018