Creativity, Conservatives And A Revolt By British Teachers

Let’s forget about Canada’s terrible government for a second and look across the Atlantic to Great Britain, where teacher unions are casting unprecedented non-confidence votes at* the Tory government’s education secretary, Michael Grove. Grove is the the architect of unpopular education reforms that have provoked substantial backlash. The whole thing reminds me of the conversations about school design and standardized testing we’re having in Saskatchewan.

But the reason I’m mentioning this is that The Guardian has a great column by English author and education expert Sir Kenneth Robinson  column on how creativity actually works. The headline: “To Encourage Creativity, Mr Gove, You Must First Understand What It Is”. Here’s an excerpt:

First, creativity, like learning in general, is a highly personal process. We all have different talents and aptitudes and different ways of getting to understand things. Raising achievement in schools means leaving room for these differences and not prescribing a standard steeplechase for everyone to complete at the same time and in the same way.

Second, creativity is not a linear process, in which you have to learn all the necessary skills before you get started. It is true that creative work in any field involves a growing mastery of skills and concepts. It is not true that they have to be mastered before the creative work can begin. Focusing on skills in isolation can kill interest in any discipline. Many people have been put off mathematics for life by endless rote tasks that did nothing to inspire them with the beauty of numbers. Many have spent years grudgingly practicing scales for music examinations only to abandon the instrument altogether once they’ve made the grade.

The real driver of creativity is an appetite for discovery and a passion for the work itself. When students are motivated to learn, they naturally acquire the skills they need to get the work done. Their mastery of them grows as their creative ambitions expand. You’ll find evidence of this process in great teaching in every discipline from football to chemistry.

The column is here and you guys should read it. Go!

*Against? Nah, I like “at”.


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Author: Stephen Whitworth

Prairie Dog editor Stephen Whitworth was carried to Regina in a swarm of bees. He's been with Prairie Dog since May 1999 and will die at his keyboard before admitting this was all a terrible, terrible mistake.