Being Creative

Food for Thought

I don’t care much for the so-called “Asian fusion” cuisine. It has become a cliche of “creativity,” which is not creative. I prefer authentic cuisines, but for the chefs cooking them, they are just traditional dishes that countless others in their home countries make. Isn’t that uncreative too?

Creativity isn’t about inventing something new. It cannot be separated from its context. What is creative in one country might be uncreative in another. Just as exhibiting a urinal in a gallery was creative in Duchamp’s time, it’s what you do in relation to the cultural context that determines creativity. Queens Night Market is aware of this, so you don’t see vendors selling dishes that are already ubiquitous in America.

I came across a YouTube video about the cliche topics you should avoid for your college admissions essay. The first one was an immigrant story. It’s not that immigrant stories are inherently boring. From the point of view of admissions officers at elite colleges, the problem is that they receive too many of them, particularly because American colleges are popular among Chinese students.

I also read a research paper that said, for Asian students, being involved in stereotypically Asian activities like playing piano and joining a math club would hurt their chances of getting accepted. This seems unfair, but what would you do if you were an admissions officer? If you get thousands of applications from Asian students with near-perfect grades and test scores who have been playing piano or violin since childhood, you would feel one of them would be enough for your college, given that the number of seats is limited. It’s not that there is anything wrong with playing the piano; it’s just that our society doesn’t need so many of them, especially if they are just playing mainstream classical music.

If you are one of those Asian students, you wouldn’t want to see a whole bunch of other Asians just like yourself in your college, either. After all, what is attractive about American colleges is that you get to experience a diversity of values and opinions.

Asian parents, in particular, need to think more carefully about what creativity means.