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.