Boston Globe: Selling creativity to America’s kids

By Rebecca Onion
Boston Globe

ogata_designing coverWhen we think of the childhoods of baby boomers, we think about mass culture: a Hula Hoop and Davy Crockett cap on every porch; Lincoln Logs in the toybox; televisions tuned to the same entertainments.

What’s harder to remember is that people worried about all this conformity while it was happening. Popular books like David Riesman’s “The Lonely Crowd” and movies like “Rebel Without a Cause” spoke to the anxiety of Americans who wondered how individuals could distinguish themselves and live fulfilling lives amidst the masses.

Out of that anxiety emerged a new preoccupation for middle-class parents, and one very much still with us today: fostering childhood creativity. In a new book “Designing the Creative Child: Playthings and Places in Midcentury America,” Amy Ogata, associate professor of architectural and design history at Bard Graduate Center, argues that American worries about conformity—as well as the nation’s Cold War rivalry with the totalitarian Soviet Union—persuaded parents that their children’s creative impulses could, and should, be encouraged.

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