Creativity

In what has been described as the most watched TED talk of all time, Sir Ken Robinson famously suggests that we are “educated out” of creativity. This view has certainly not gone uncontested. Julian Astle does a nice job of commenting upon Robinson’s arguments, pointing to TEDx talk by Astle’s colleague Tim Leunig in which Leunig argues that “real creativity is based on knowledge”.

There is an on-going thread in the #EduTwitter discourse that positions ‘creativity’ as being of fundamental value, above even literacy and numeracy, perhaps, and certainly more important than merely memorising facts by rote. And ‘creativity’ is described as being vital in the 21st Century; it is essential for employment in the economy of the future. Of course, purveyors of this view seem not to have noticed that we are two decades into the 21stCentury, and they aren’t able to offer any kind of definitive explanation for why the future particularly needs ‘creativity’ any more than ‘creativity’ was needed at any time in the past. The soothsayers merely tell us that robots will take all our jobs, and that most kids in school today will end up in jobs that don’t exist yet.

There is an unpleasant undercurrent of utilitarianism to this discourse; I am deeply irritated by arguments which basically amount to nothing more than suggesting schools = job training. I’ve written before about some of my concerns with the utilitarian view of education, and it concerns me to see it so dominant in some quarters. Much of the drive for ‘creativity’ seems to be coming from the worlds of business and banking. And the last thing we should be doing is asking bank managers to help us design curriculums.

What baffles me most, though, is the notion that schools don’t currently teach ‘creativity’. I teach English – a subject whose very being pulses with creativity; creativity is the lifeblood of English, it is the essence of English. Without creativity, English would be nothing.

At GCSE, English Language is 50% composition, including narrative prose and discursive and transactional writing. In English Literature, students are assessed through the medium of the essay – the paragon of academic composition, an exercise in argumentation and rhetoric.

This term, across KS3, I have discussed the following texts, stories, and news reports with students:

  • Genesis ch.1-3;
  • Prometheus, and Pandora;
  • The Portraits of the Knight and The Miller (Chaucer);
  • Caxton’s Eggs;
  • The Monkey’s Paw;
  • The Signalman;
  • The Red Room;
  • To Kill a Mockingbird;
  • The Crucible;
  • McCarthyism and the House Un-American Activities Committee.

In addition, we’ve been using the weekly writing challenges from Rebecca Foster to help students to develop their writing craft. And best of all, some students have had a go at writing their own sonnets.

My subject absolutely oozes creativity, and so do many others. And that’s not to mention the music, the drama, and the artistic endeavours that permeate every school across the country, nor the creative approaches that students employ and develop in their charity raising, the Duke of Edinburgh Award, their sporting achievements, and in many other activities too numerous to mention.

To suggest that schools do not promote creativity is a lie.

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