What UK education czar Michael Gove doesn't understand about creativity

Michael Gove is the UK Secretary of State for Education, the subject of a vote of no confidence from the nation's head teacher's conference that ran 99% opposed to his ideas for educational reform. The major motif of Gove's reforms is an emphasis on rote memorisation and linear learning. Gove insists that he loves creativity, but says that creativity is only possible once you've mastered the basics ("You cannot be creative unless you understand how sentences are constructed, what words mean and how to use grammar.")

Writing in the Guardian, Ken Robinson thoroughly and blazingly rebuts this proposition, and presents a stirring manifesto for embracing creativity in education:

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.

Third, facilitating this process takes connoisseurship, judgment – and, yes, creativity, on the part of teachers. One concern about the revised national curriculum is that it will be too linear and prescriptive. For creativity to flourish, schools have to feel free to innovate without the constant fear of being penalised for not keeping with the programme. Too much prescription is a dead hand on the creative pulse of teachers and students alike.

To encourage creativity, Mr Gove, you must first understand what it is (via Dan Hon)


  1. I agree wholeheartedly. My daughter (who is autistic) could never memorize her times tables. This frustrated some teachers and me as well. Her 6th grade teacher told us she should be in advanced mathematics due to her skill level. I was shocked; as I assumed since she couldn’t memorize the basics how could she advance. She continued in advanced math throughout her k-12 education.

    1. Well, now you’ve learned that arithmetics isn’t the basic of mathematics, but merely a very, very small subset that’s useful to pre-industrial people. 

    2. One of the signs of an aptitude for mathematical reasoning is a refusal to do things by rote – seven-year-old me understood that I could work out the multiple any time I needed it, so there was no need to memorise the answer.  Most of the pure mathematicians I’ve met weren’t interested in learning their times tables as a child. 

      1.  Pure mathematics has essentially nothing to do with arithmetic.  But mental arithmetic is still a useful skill for a large fraction of the population. 

        1. Of course; like telling time, reading and tying their shoelaces; it’s a basic skill.

          My point was that a prescriptive definition of success = memorisation will cause the most misassessment and damage to those children most capable of more.

          1.  Agreed.

            But the government thesis is that a significant proportion of kids leave primary school without those basic skills. (well, reading and writing. Who needs shoelaces when you can have velcro).

            See, for example, the evening standard link I posted earlier.

    3. entirely empathise i have a number of dyslexic family members who are extremely smart but the teenaged day care they suffer at their schools dampens any enthusiasm they ever had for finding out more

      the thing about rote learning is it appeals to the structure and confine reflex in the conservative mind this is similar across nations and along with sharp and often embarrassing decrees on law and order and other such nonsense these ideas corral the conservative voting public into a secure paddock from whence they regard outwards feeling safe and insulated from all the strange dangers and mysteries of reality but given adequate numbers they retain power which they earn by proxy through their vote for a conservative leadership but the issue comes to a head when dangerous idiots push policy in the traditional democracy swivelling way in order to shore up support for the crumbling party and out they come waving banners and making a song and dance not giving two hoots about the actual real world consequences of their policy this extends far beyond the immediate exclusion of subsets of the learning population but into the trickle down effects whereby pools of the population lack education and money earning capability because some policies years ago destroyed their ability to learn in any case i am glad this is headline news as the current government in the uk is crashing although i cannot see any useful alternatives and refuse to abstain my vote so will do my damnedest to parse through the choices and whittle away support
      after my many years of existence and numerous years of childrearing i feel that the great majority of individuals are more than capable of adequate academic success to perform the great majority of work including detailed economic analysis its just that a lot of them are entirely put of by stuffy rigidity and ass tutors bless them plus their parents blindly pushing them to follow the rules despite plenty of evidence often from their own personal failure to succeed that the world is not ruled by a grade students

      this looks like the desperate ploy of a government facing extinction

        1. Thanks.

          In the heady rush of too much morning coffee I decided to ersatz mimic stream of consciousness writing, as a kind of self-demonstration that rules don’t create the communication, the words do.

          The rules just help frame the feelings and thoughts for an audience, but most audiences are massively capable of adapting to most methods of communication.

          Strict grammatical rules can simply cause seizure in communication.  They’re good for legal disputes, but not so much for much else.

          Viz Joseph Heller, Kerouac.


            I decided to ersatz mimic stream of consciousness writing, as a kind of
            self-demonstration that rules don’t create the communication, the words

            I think you may have demonstrated the opposite.  I made it about a third of the way through and then felt kinda fuzzy and had to stop.

          2. I know, tl;dr, 5 line rule!

            Want a job as an editor?  I can pay in popcorn.  Bag a day.

  2. We can never teach students everything that they’ll need to know, so instead we need to teach them how to teach themselves.  You can’t do that through memorization.

    1. But there is kind of a minimum set of things that people really do have to memorize in order to effectively learn new things. You can’t just figure out everything from first principles each and every time. And some things, like learning foreign languages, are essentially *entirely* memorization.

      1. I didn’t mean to imply that there’s nothing we need to memorize, but that shouldn’t be the goal. The goal should be teaching students how to further their own knowledge. 

        We do need to cover basic topics and ensure a well-rounded experience, but you don’t need to wait for students to memorize facts before you try to get them engaged in learning.  If you get them engaged first, they’ll absorb the facts without being forced to.

          1. You’re a jerk, kraut.  A complete kneebiter.

            (Is that better?)

      2. No, you can’t work from first principles every time, but neither can you truly learn a concept by rote. Your example of learning a foreign language is instructive.

        Between secondary and university, I took a total of six requisite semesters of Spanish. I would learn all the vocabulary and grammar. I would pass the tests with excellent marks. I would write an essay and translate using those same rules. I was Searle’s Chinese Room incarnate. But within weeks of acing the finals, I would begin forgetting what I’d learned, until months later all I had was a lot of vocabulary and a handful of half-remembered grammatical rules. All that effort and I spoke pidgin Spanish.

        Then, a couple of years after college, I got my first really decent advice on learning a language. First get the accent down. Find movies and music performed in the language, maybe pick an actor you like and seek out their films, and just listen to the sounds. Then learn the language as its own structure. Look-up the history of the words and the grammatical rules. Look for patterns until you can begin to model them. Yes, you will get tripped up by exceptions, just as native speakers of the language often are, and maybe you wouldn’t score as well on a test as a rote learner, but you’ll develop an understanding of what’s going on in the brain of a native speaker when they use their language.

        While you’re building a feel for the language’s overall character, do what everyone else does, learn vocabulary and grammar, try to engage in conversations with (patient) fluent speakers whenever possible. Start reading literature written in the language for young children and progress to more advanced lit, pushing your comfort zone just enough not to frustrate yourself. Finally, if you can, go somewhere where its the common language and immerse yourself.

        It won’t be quick, but you’ll learn more, both qualitatively and quantitatively, than a rote learner who takes six semesters and then begins forgetting what they don’t use.

        In addition to English, I now speak two other languages fluently, I can understand another closely related to one of the two, and I speak yet another language very poorly, but I’m improving.

        I’m not stupid, but I’m no genius or polymath. I just understand that knowledge is the ability generalize from concepts to find patterns and understanding is the ability to predictably model them. Any computer can memorize facts, numbers, tables and rules perfectly. That is not learning.

        TL;DR: Knowledge is concepts, not facts. Drilling facts into students without teaching the whys not only wastes everyone’s time and money, it leaves the students blind to connective theory, kills their appreciation for the subject, and squanders the finest opportunity to strengthen their reasoning skills.

        I don’t normally pass judgement on other nation’s domestic policies, because I don’t like to armchair quarterback a government in which I have no say. But the future of a whole generation is on the line, and that effects all of us. So Secretary Grove should unstick his head from his posterior, extract his foot from his mouth, use it to give said posterior a swift kick, and then learn a thing or two about how human beings actually learn so he can be an asset, not a liability, to the future of his civilization.

      3. some things, like learning foreign languages, are essentially *entirely* memorization

        So French babies memorise grammar rules from birth?

        The desire to communicate is what makes us learn language.  All the people I know who learned languages by rote – dozens – speak like awkwardly handled marionettes dancing the tarantula.  It’s embarrassing, cringe-worthy, especially when their formative education was in institutions that continually informed them they were amazing, and nothing can ever stand in their way.

        I memorised French at school.  But I learned it with a lovely French lass.  The desire to communicate well and accurately in a sensitive relationship overrode any sense I had that I could speak the lingo – I couldn’t; I could just regurgitate difficult sentences that left me feeling lost, and my listeners in bewilderment or shock.

      4.  I forgot the rules for derivatives on a calculus test in high school and derived them again from the definition.  I ended up getting a math degree.

        1. Same kind of thing happened to me – maths finals at university, my brain “saw” a novel application of matrices to an algebraic question and “predicted” it would be faster than the rote method.

          I got about 90% through the answer, but damned if the tutor didn’t score me high having seen where I was headed.

          Edit: i.e. the rules don’t always need to apply

          1.  I’m not sure I was getting at the idea that the rules don’t always need to apply.  I guess what I was trying to say is that the understanding of why the derivative rules are what they are or why matrix arithmetic can be used to solve an algebraic problem is much more valuable than merely being able to algorithmically apply the derivative rules or the Jordan-Gauss method. 

            When I taught high school math I felt like I had to reteach the kids how to do arithmetic with fractions and negative numbers.  It was clear that they had learned algorithms to solve specific types of problems algorithmically instead of having learned the concepts involved — they’d know most of the procedures but they’d mix up which procedures were used with which problems.  I believe the rote method of learning mathematics is actively harmful (although I have been grateful to my mother for forcing me to memorize the multiplication tables up to nines).

            What probably got me into mathematics more than anything else was a teacher who focused on rote method to the exclusion of everything else (to the point of telling people they were doing things the wrong way even if their way worked just as well as her way).  I just read the textbook instead of listening to her.  I was much more interested in the ah-ha moments I’d get reading derivations in proofs than I was in just getting the right answers.

          2. Gotcha

            “Rules don’t apply” was in concert with, rather than opposition to, your story!

            My tutor is still there, a Prof. now, with all sorts of publications.  What a dude.

            Agreed on rote with X tables … if they’re not in there, they’re hard to derive on the fly!

            My interest in maths came when I started seeing it do beautiful things that I couldn’t understand the workings of.  I had to know.

            To this day I’m like that – first go at bagels failed last November.  I had to know why.  Latest batch of delicious sourdough loaves came out lovely.

            Maths was helpful!

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  3. Bwah, ha, ha, ha, ha! Lemme get this straight. A government bureaucrat commenting on creativity.  I love it!

    1. Civil servants might be typified as bureaucrats. It’s quite a stretch to apply that sobriquet to a swivel-eyed secretary of state.

      1. Applying my learned algebra across disciplines, I deduce:

        A = Swivel-eyed
        B = Secretary of state
        C = Loon

        A+B = A+C
        A+B = A+C
        B = C

        I learned that.

  4. Are there any schools in the US that truly embrace creativity?  I have a wonderfully brilliant, creative daughter who will be entering middle school this fall.  She is ground down daily by inane rules (e.g. you can’t draw in school after you’ve done your work) and by unchallenging material.
    We could send her to a harder version of normal school, but that doesn’t address the underlying stultifying effects of traditional methods (cue ‘Another Brick in the wall’).
    I would love to find a ‘hacker’ or other creative arts school that would allow her to truly grow.  
    Any thoughts?

    1. Have you looked into enrolling her in an International Baccalaureate school?  The MYP (Middle Years) Programme might be up her alley.

      1. The amazing thing about the IB, which is amazing, is the extreme reactions it provokes in right-wingers.

        I’ve heard it called a socialist conspiracy, and dangerous to economies.  Family members have refused to contemplate it for their children.

        From personal experience, I know well that what it does is provide exposure to concepts that are traditionally restrained from right wing education.

        Call me stupid, but preventing people learning something doesn’t seem like a healthy choice.

        *ah* maybe that’s the point.

        1.  Well, to a certain segment of US right wingers, everyone to the left of Genghis Khan * is a socialist conspirator.

          *) with apologies to Genghis Khan, who was probably remarkably enlightened by the standards of his time

    2. The beautiful thing about this video is that it is real and it’s happening.  It is possible to find educators and administrators more interested in learning than in following the familiar patterns of bureaucratic requirements and arbitrary authoritarianism.  I wish you luck in finding them. 

    3. Believe it or not, you can teach yourself. Buy the books and material she needs, tell her what to study and learn. Then test her on the material. If she is a self-starter, it will be easy.

    4. Thanks for the links, I’d not heard of IB MYP or the Independent Project, I’ll check them out.
      I found Logan LaPlant’s ‘Hack schooling make me happy’ talk inspirational also.

  5. Mr. Gove should be made to read this:


    Given the fact that it has been out for over ten years and is totally free to read, there’s really no excuse. We’ve known for some decades now that context is critical to memory formation as well as later retrieval. Rote exercises are about as context-free as it is possible to get. We also know that complex skill development is not linear. It is iterative. You cycle through multiple times, making progressively better approximations with feedback from experts. This is called “cognitive apprenticeship” and it is the exact opposite of “crawl before you walk.”

    1. Given the fact that it has been out for over ten years and is totally free to read, there’s really no excuse.

      Mr. Gove’s sole qualification for becoming Secretary of State for Education is that he knows Rupert Murdoch. He has no education, no credentials and no experience that make him fit for purpose.

      1.  > He has no education,

        He studied English at Oxford and got a 2.1

        > no credentials and no experience

        He was
        Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families for three years before he got his ministerial post, and has been in his current post for three years.

        You might not think that a lot of experience or credentials, and I may agree, but by the standards of the political system in the UK that counts as practically overqualified.

        So you don’t like his policies? Fine, your choice.  But don’t stoop so low in your arguments.  It doesn’t suit you.

        1. Antinous is correct there, raut.  While a 2.1 in English from Oxford is clearly an education, it’s not an education that makes him fit for purpose, and nor is it a credential.  (Unless the English course at Oxford is vastly different than I believe.)  I have a 2.1, and I’m not qualified for the job either.

          Nor is “Shadow Secretary of State for Schools” a qualification for dictating the curriculum.  “Teaching experience” might be, “actually read a paper or two on how learning works” would be a good start, but “Shadow Secretary” just means he wasn’t qualified for the job he had then either.

          1.  In the UK political system, you don’t get to run a department because you are an expert in the subject.  You run a department because you’re a successful career politician, with all that entails.

            So he’s at least as qualified as anyone else likely to get the job. And since he was shadowing this post in opposition, he’s at least concerned himself with the problems for a few years before taking the job.

            By British government standards,  that’s exceedingly well qualified.

          2. Obviously, I agree with you here.  But that’s why the man in the job is supposed to take advice from the career experts who do know what they’re doing.  Clearly, in this case, that’s not happening.

            If you prefer: The problem is not that he’s an ignorant fool who’s never bothered to read up on the subject.  The problem is that he doesn’t know that.

            (That said, he’s had years to at least do some basic reading on education and the human mind, and hasn’t bothered.  So his ignorance is by choice.)

          3. So he’s at least as qualified as anyone else likely to get the job.

            In other words, unqualified. And yet, he’s revamping the entire school system based on his unqualified political agenda. Or possibly his unresolved personal issues. Or both. What could go wrong?

        2. As I pointed out, he has no qualifications related to his job, you teasing my comment into tiny, decontextualized sound bites notwithstanding.

          1. So by this argument, you must be really worried that Obama is Commander in Chief. After all, he has no military experience I’m aware of.
            You seem to be arguing for a technocracy, but this is hard to do in practice. If you have one expert who wants to do one thing, and another expert who wants to do the exact opposite, who decides what should actually be done? Do we have a situation where only people with an in-depth understanding of a subject are allowed to vote on it?

          2. You seem to be arguing for a technocracy

            That would certainly be better than the idiocracy/ plutocracy/ cronyocracy that puts a fool like Michael Gove, who knows absolutely nothing about education, in charge of the nation’s educational system.

          3. I think the description you’re groping for is “parliamentary democracy”. It’s not perfect, especially when people win power with whom you don’t agree.
            Anyway, why pick on Gove re his ignorance? Surely that description applies pretty much to everyone in the upper echelons of power in Westminster and pretty much everywhere else, as Nigel Farage keeps reminding us with his “never had a proper job in their lives” line.
            What experience of education does Stephen Twigg (shadow education secretary) have?

          4. Anyway, why pick on Gove re his ignorance?

            Because he’s in charge of the whole fucking education system. And he’s unqualified. How can you not have a problem with that?

  6. A large part of creativity consists of making mistakes, recognizing them as mistakes (which, admittedly, is a useful skill), and realizing that the “mistake” does something interesting/useful. Art largely consists of setting up expectations and resolving them in unexpected ways, and to do that you have to understand what folks expect.

    A balance is needed. I know someone who was savaged by The New English at an early grade. Back then it was trendy to teach kids phonetics first to get the kids started reading and writing faster, and then correct their spelling… and she has misspelled phonetically ever since unless she makes a special effort. That is not a preferred outcome.

    But, yes, creativity can certainly be encouraged in parallel with the basics. And should be. EVERY kid is creative; the key is encouraging them and giving them tools to be more so.

    1. A balance is needed, that’s true.  The problem is that the balance is always changing, depending on the individual and their evolving mind.  The balance should be defined by the student and the teacher, not by the state.

  7. 99% opposed?  Hitler only polls 98.4% opposition among UK educators.

    (sorry, someone had to do it)

  8. Michael Gove’s ideas about educational technique have been critiqued, in detail, since the emergence of progressive education theory in the late 19th century. We’ve known for over a century that this is bunk, that what Gove proposes is actually worse than doing nothing.

    One thing that is noticeable is that you will see progressive education techniques used in expensive private schools. Rote memorization, drill, and testing are for poor people.

    It should be obvious what this is really about.

      1. While I’m less familiar with the educational system in the UK than in the US, I have a very hard time believing that the education system follows progressive education theory. Maybe there were efforts in that direction decades ago, but I doubt it after Thatcher.

      2. I rather suspect the 25% figure is remarkably diminished in middle class neighbourhoods.

        It isn’t a question of learning methods.  It’s a question of quality teaching being ubiquitous.  And that is something the conservatives are never going to focus on.


    1. Parents who put their kids into private education are already motivated to see their kids succeed. Pushy middle class parents are a stereotype because truth. They’re also the ones who are fans of rote education because it’s an easy metric, and something that the pushy parent can easily monitor and that’s why rote education is still the standard in those expensive private schools. Not sure where you get the idea this isn’t the case. 

      1. From talking to friends who were public school teachers, and others who were private school teachers. From sending my stepsons to a private school for several years (they had generous tuition assistance) and from talking to the parents of my younger stepson’s friends he still has from attending that school. From some articles I’ve read, and from what my partner tells me from her readings for education classes.

      2. Parents who put their kids into private education are already motivated to see their kids succeed.

        That’s not true. Some of them are just trying to get them out of the house for most of the year.

  9. I got a C in English about 25 years ago. And an A in Art. So I became a cartoonist.
    But everybody agreed that my writing is better than my art.

    Now I mostly write comics. (Mostly Dennis the Menace and Gnasher for the Beano). My spelling and grammar are pretty bad and editors don’t care. they fix all my mistakes for me.

    1.  Which is great. But most people don’t have editors, so they need to be able to write properly without help.

      1. Your right about that Kraut. I’m just glad I didn’t listen to the results that told me I was good for nothing. Here in the real world I’m able to check, re-write and develop my work. Something that isn’t accounted for in tests. That “your” at the top of this comment should have been “you’re” for a start!

        1. Stupid kid that I was I listened to my school and believed them when they told me I had no useful skills. I barely made it through school and at 21 discovered I have an IQ over 130. Thanks to my education what should have been an advantage turned into a disability.

          Because of this I’m happy for each and every person who managed to escape from a modern educational system unscathed :-)

  10.  Certainly we need to teach students to teach themselves, but
    memorization is an important part of a self-learning skill set for many

    Memorizing songs and poetry creates a wonderful well to draw from when
    creating new songs and new poems. Memorizing chords or progressions
    allows one to automatically use them create new music.

    It is also impossible to learn to read and write Chinese without
    memorization.  Recognition for reading and practicing writing in proper
    stroke order by hand again and again, so that sometimes the hand will
    remember it for the brain.

    I cannot think of anything that I memorized in school or out that I
    *regret* having memorized. Even my old Latin declensions like “hic haec
    hoc” were useful in not just helping me read Latin in high school, but
    were also important when I began to learn   German, so the principle of
    declensions was embedded.

    I still use the old spelling trick I got from 7th grade’s Warriner’s Grammar of the “i before e rule” and its exceptions:

        “I before e, except after c, or when sounding like “ay” as in
    neighbor and weigh”. The exceptions: Neither leisured foreigner seized
    the weird height.”

    Yes, a spell-checker can catch it – but isn’t it nice to also be independent of a spell check.

    So, while I am certainly against stultifying education, and rote
    memorization as the only method of teaching and learning, I think it
    still serves an important role, and might in the future – remember how
    people became responsible for a book at the end of Fahrenheit 451 – rote


  11. I’m not seeing anything too outrageous about that quote? You need to at least know what the rules are, and why they are rules, before you can break them profitably.

    1. Perhaps you lack context.

      Gove has absolutely no clue about education; no evidence to support his position, no qualifications commensurate with the power he has been entrusted to (mis)manage public education in England and Wales.

      I commend your kindness in trying to read his quoted opinion charitably, but note that he was not saying what you are saying.

      The subtext with educationally-ignorant conservatives when they talk about rote learning of grammatical rules is that children should learn and obey ALL rules by rote and not even question them. If he was really interested in children learning about grammar and how it works in a language, he’d be advocating the much more useful descriptivist approach to linguistics.

  12. What Govie (go on you want to do it) needs to learn is that no single approach to  teaching will work for everyone. Neither the formal learn the basics and then get creative nor the other extreme of hear are 10000 examples figure it out, is the single silver bullet. It always has to be a mixture.

    Successive governments have made this mistake to both extremes and teachers (good and bad) have been stuck in the middle. Growing up in the 70s and 80s I would probably have benefited from some more formal grammar, rather than the approach taken then of read and you will learn. It  is just how my brain works but I am not so stupid as to think all people learn that way.

    The sooner governments let educators get on with educating and stop trying to make all students fit the same mould the better.

  13. He’s an idiot.

    Britain’s economic success in the creative industries – let’s take pop music – is massively down to the proliferation of liberal arts schools in the 50s and 60s.

    You’d think a right wing politician would pay attention to that.

    But no, he’s taking an extreme political position to appeal to the grass-roots tory voters in the villages and hamlets outside the borders of London.

    He’s an idiot ass.

    If either he or Theresa May get any more power, I’m outta here, family in tow.

    Recommendations for destination nations?

      1. Much as I love Scotland, you have to admit that the weather is a bit shite, on average. 

        I think I’m increasingly in favour of Scottish independence.  It’d be even better if you could take the North of England with you….

        1. Oooh… if I can stay in Leeds and be governed as part of Scotland, that’s the best possible result.  I’m in.

      2. Good surfing in Thurso.  Might be on to something.

        I like the “I moved and helped my new home shear off from your crapness” thing too

  14. Blah blah blah.

    In an ideal world we’d spend all our money on social services, health, education and oh wait, we already do. (we spend about 3% of GDP on defence before anyone jumps in).

    The majority of the creative, successful entrepreneurs the UK already has came through a system that didn’t need massive expensive whiteboards, computers everywhere and Lord knows what else. You can’t teach creativity in any meaningful way and throwing money at it won’t change that.

    I doubt there’s much to be done forcing an education on people who aren’t interested in learning, when their homelife and peer group are deliberately antagonistic towards education. We just don’t have the factories to sop up the soulless zombies that don’t have enough creative spark to foster a fire in their nasal hair.

    Arguably a system of rote education encourages brighter students to find creative outlets outside of school. Through boredom, because boredom is a bigger patron of the creative arts that any amount of fiddly faddly education policy.

    1. The point of most schooling seems to be to keep youths and urchins off the streets.  No wonder they feel restrained.

      It’s hard for an Eton educated politician to focus seriously on increasing the education of the underclasses.

      But therein lies salvation – just about every individual has the capability to be fantastic, but instead they’re crushed, chewed up and spat out by a useless education system.

      But opening up opportunity to the masses means diminishing the chances for your expensively educated children.

      In a sense, none of this matters.  As the world becomes freer, and teenagers can set up internet firms that make millions, the grip of the moneyed classes on economic output is weakening.

    2.  It’s done terribly now therefore we should not do it at all.

      I think I have detected a weakness in your argument.

  15. You could tweet a list of the things Michael Gove *does* understand without getting anywhere near the character limit.

  16.  Education in the sense of “preparing children to function in a given set of environments” is never a single-stranded process–in fact, it would seem that the strands themselves change as the children age. The language-acquisition process, for example, is not linear, nor do its component parts proceed at the same rate. I suspect that every culture requires some activities that benefit from a period of rote learning (counting, naming of items), and other activities might build on these (Skreader’s post came up while I was drafting this), and yet others might arise out of what we would call play or experimentation or other less-structured activities. (I note that I keep using the word “activities.” Learning is something the learner *does*, rather than simply receives.)

    There’s a whole other discussion at a slight angle to this one, in which the extremely fuzzy and emotion-laden term “creativity” gets unpacked. (Hint: In my lexicon it does not indicate a single trait or capability, and there’s nothing mystical or mysterious about it.) But that is a different thread.

  17. Looks like the usual rote recitation of the standard establishment approved argument in favor of content free creativity. Anyone who has actually worked with children can rebut it, at least aside from its straw man arguments which cannot be rebutted for obvious reasons. An awful lot of children are being deprived of the tools they need to be creative, because somehow they are considered “too hard” or “too stifling” for the poor creatures. It’s condescending at best and often worse. The usual reaction I get when teaching a kid how to do long division or recognize the parts of speech or how to balance a chemical equation or how to choose a rhetorical method is “Why didn’t anyone teach us this before?”

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