The Film

The 4th R is a film about why it’s important to learn the skills of creative thinking, problem solving, improvisation and collaboration, how that’s done, and why it’s critical to the future of America.  It shows the importance of art as in integral part of the curriculum every day at every level in every school, and some of the benefits of having accomplished, professional artists visit schools and interact with students.

We visit Decorah, a small town in Northeast Iowa, and see a concert by the Unified Jazz Ensemble.  They’re here working with students from Middle School to the local college, giving concerts, performing in clubs…  These students consistently outperform others from much larger school districts,  and the consistent inclusion of arts in the curriculum is key.

While IQ scores and SAT and ACT scores are indisputably on the rise, American creativity levels are declining.  Primary research and analysis by Dr. Kyung Hee Kim, an assistant professor at the College of William & Mary School of Education of the results of the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking shows that the creative abilities of American children have been spiraling downward for almost 20 years. The Torrance test analyzes students’ ability to come up with original ideas and put them into practice. Dr. Kim found that scores on the Torrance Test taken between 1968 and 2008 showed a steady decline after 1990, with the steepest decline since 2000 in the youngest students.

In the 4th R Dr. Kim discusses how that’s a serious issue at a time when creative thinking is among the most desperately needed skills in the American workplace. A recent study found that 85 percent of employers concerned with hiring creative people say they can’t find the right applicants. Kim blamed America’s standards-obsessed schools for creating an environment in which creative thinking was not nurtured. “Creative students cannot breathe, they are suffocated in school,” she said. “Then they become underachievers.”

In the film we visit North San Diego County where a U.S. Department of Education pilot program called “The D.R.E.A.M. Project” (Developing Reading Education through Arts Methods)  is integrating arts into the reading curriculum or 3rd and 4th grade students with impressive results — on test scores.  Several of the participants in this research project are interviewed in the film.

Problem solving is a function of creativity. There is a crisis of creativity in our country today, if not in the world.  The American advantage has always been innovation.  It is often called “Yankee ingenuity”.  The creativity that is at the core of that ingenuity is being crushed by how we are teaching in our schools; by teaching to the test.  By cutting funding for arts in our schools, we are stealing the opportunity from our children to learn problem solving, and cutting off our childrens’ path to success.

This is reinforced by some of the other most noted creativity experts in the world.

We watch and learn together.