On the 3rd of June, the City Recital Hall in Sydney will host a conversation. Inspired by the spirit of the late broadcaster, Mark Colvin, panellists will consider the vexed question of whether schools and society are stifling or encouraging creativity (according to the title) or whether they are fostering or stifling imagination (according to the description).
The panellists include Megan Washington, a musician; Lucy Clark, a journalist at The Guardian Australia who has written a book about education; Benjamin Law, a journalist who wrote a book that went on to form the basis of a sitcom; and Robyn Ewing, an academic most notable for criticising systematic synthetic phonics. The panel will be chaired by Julia Zemiro, whose day job involves hosting a music quiz and interviewing people.
I have no objection to any one of these people appearing on such a panel and talking about schools. My objection is to the one, glaring, stinking, thunderous absence; that of any teachers.
Presumably, we are just not interesting enough. Presumably, the organisers think they are more likely to attract a crowd if they get musicians and journalists to talk about schools instead of teachers. From the published work of those involved, it also seems a done deal that the answer to the question will be the obvious and lazy one; that schools do indeed kill creativity. Despite being false, this has been a popular truthy meme dating back at least as far as Ken Robinson’s famous TED Talk on the same topic. I would be surprised if there is any challenge.
I cannot comment on whether talking about schools at the same time as silencing teachers is in the spirit of the late Mark Colvin, because I am unfamiliar with his work. But if it is not, then the organisers have done him a disservice.
It is a latent form of contempt that leaves teachers out of education discussions. It must change.