Compulsion, jargon and the case for teaching creativity

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I have written at some length about the way that the recent ‘Gonski 2.0′ review into Australian education was essentially captured by educational progressivism. I have been waiting for the cycle to complete and for progressive educators to start drawing on the authority of Gonski 2.0 to push their cause.

Although it benefits from a spurious connection to progressive politics, educational progressivism is a distinct set of ideas specific to the nature of learning. These ideas are largely wrong and so proponents cannot reliably point to empirical evidence to justify their arguments. This is why we see long chains of references to other academics and to French philosophers. This is why we see lots of supposedly empirical data which, on investigation, amounts to surveys of what different people think about things.

And this is why educational progressivism tends to be authoritarian – proponents attempt to capture institutions and write standards and regulations that they may then point to and say, ‘You have to do what we say.’

So I have been waiting for them to use Gonski 2.0 in this way.

A new article has been published on the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) blog site that seems to fit that bill. On the surface, it is about teaching creativity. As I have noted before (e.g. here and here), this is a misguided aim because creativity is not a generic capacity. Instead, it is highly dependent upon domain knowledge. If we want students to be creative then we first need to teach them lots of knowledge and skills.

Yet, when you drill into what the authors actually mean, for instance by examining one of the papers they cite, we can see that a push for creativity is really a push for progressive-inspired teaching methods such as inquiry learning, the teacher as facilitator and the removal of subject disciplines. The logic is that creativity is a process and this will be supported by ‘creative’ teaching methods. In another report, we read of the, ‘Need to redefine ‘academic success’ as it is currently too tied to reproductive knowledge’. Yes – I had to read that statement twice.

To further their aims, the authors go straight to compulsion. ‘Our national curriculum mandates the development of the general capability of creative and critical thinking,’ they note, before suggesting, ‘the immediate incorporation of compulsory creativity training in all initial teacher education and professional development across the country’.

You can see what’s going on here, right?

I have less of an understanding about why the authors use weird jargon to prosecute their case. Take this example:

“If governments are going to ensure workforces of the future will be adaptable, creative, and visionary, then they too must adapt to best practice and Australian research, and alter the way they tectonically arbitrate change and coordinate the future visioning of education in this country.”

I can’t figure out whether this helps or hinders their cause.


5 thoughts on “Compulsion, jargon and the case for teaching creativity

  1. Iain Murphy says:

    Nice article Greg. It almost seems like they have an agenda that isn’t connected with students learning.

  2. We really are entering Kafka territory when the authors gushingly link to a work (the Torrance one) which states “Creativity defies precise definition, and this does not bother me at all”, and then insist on compulsory creativity training for beginning teachers. It’s beyond parody.

  3. Perhaps the language they use is intended to illustrate the need they want addressed. As with creative accounting not all creativity is worthwhile. The authors have clearly used Yes Minister as a model for creative policy descriptions but didn’t realize it was a comedy.
    I can imagine one of the authors being in the know and having the others revise drafts after watching episodes of W1A, having been told it is a documentary on how government works.
    The meta goal was to illustrate that creativity training is needed not because people today are not creative but because they can’t tell whether they are creating satire or public policy.

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