It’s fun to rise like Doctor Manhatten (but not nude and blue) above an argument. It’s a trick to which, in my ignorance and fear, I often resort.
Following today’s debates at Michaela, I’m decidedly in two minds: streaming versus mixed ability; creativity versus knowledge; Gove versus no Gove. It’s so tempting to float around all these arguments, smiling benevolently and dripping with nuance, but at some point one needs to make some practical decisions such as whether to actually have sets, whether to foreground knowledge in your curriculum, and whether to kiss Michael Gove full on his voluptuous lips or just peck him curtly in the air to the left of his ear.
Regarding streaming, I worry that mixed-ability is more an idealisation of the classroom as a microcosm of wider society. I’m not convinced that being sat in a room for a length of time equates to one’s general experience of human interaction. I do appreciate that we worry about low expectations and slower progress in lower ability sets, but I really think that is a problem of pedagogical practice rather than ability segregation. If you believe in human development, you are going to be able to inspire any room full of people to perform out of their skin.
And so to Ken.
Like most of us, I am naturally well-disposed towards the avuncular. I love Avuncular Education Thought Leaders as much as the next exhausted and emotionally-fragile teacher. That said, I feel that I’m entering a very post-Ken phase in my thinking on the teaching of creativity.
For starters, I haven’t read any of his books. That helps to frame my non-thinking. One of Ken’s books was in the toilet of a school where I worked on placement. I used to look at its spine whilst doing my business. For that reason, I associate Ken with release, relief and a general abandonment of self-control.
I did watch an entire KEN Talk given by Ken, but couldn’t fully concentrate on his rhetoric. For one thing, his argumentation fosters a wistfulness with its obvious conceit; for another, I was preoccupied with the possibility that I might just let go in the underpants department.
In my nutshell, creativity is a worthy end, but one that needs to be met with building blocks of knowledge. I’m wary of the notion we can be taught creativity as a thing distinct. In fact, I think creativity is a fundamental faculty of human culture. One only has to watch an episode of MacGyver to know that to be true.
As for Gove, and the other debate about character, I missed much of the content of those debates as I was embroiled in school business elsewhere. So, again in lieu of a reasoned argument, I shall simply resort to my usual method of appearing learnéd and of reasonable mind. Excuse me…
Oh, and for the record, I would so kiss those voluptuous lips. One must set aside differences in affairs of the heart.