“But daddy, it’s not time for imagination!” My four year old son, Luke, was doing his best to rescue a toy that his two year old brother, Liam, had been playing with. The problem was that, according to Luke, his brother was not using the toy for its intended purpose and should, therefore, be required to give it up. I had tried to explain to Luke that Liam was using his imagination and had come up with a different way of playing. Needless to say, my reasoning didn’t wash—at least not with Luke.
In a recently posted CEA video, John Ralston Saul has some rather poignant things to say about what we sacrifice when our school systems are focused on efficiency, managerialism and content over form. And while authentic intelligence is held up by Ralston Saul as being one of the victims of the rather utilitarian model of education that has been taken shape around us, I would argue that imagination has suffered as well.
And, you know, it makes total sense.
Think back to the opening conversations that you’ve had in your schools and district offices this year. Have they been more focused on strategies for increasing test scores, or on ways of creating engaging and exciting learning environments for students? Have they been more concerned with mitigating risk through policy statements and rules, or with ways of encouraging entrepreneurship and intellectual risk-taking? Have they been more centered on assessment and evaluation, or on fostering real and powerful learning in our students and teachers?
More and more the priorities and values that are promoted in our public schools push to the side the types of energy and thinking that are going to make real differences in the ability of public education to prepare students for dynamic citizenship in the 21st century. More and more, we’re saying to our students and our teachers, “It’s not time for imagination.”
Imagination and creativity cannot simply be inserted into our school systems as a “value-added” feature. It’s not about developing a curriculum that teaches imagination, and its certainly not about creating a box on the report card that accounts for imaginative thinking.
No, imagination must become part of the culture of the way we look at schools and the work of education in Canada. It needs to be infused into the discourse used by policy-makers, administrators, teachers and students. Public will and resolve can open up the space for a shift in the types of conversations that are considered valuable in our 21st century schools. Imagination can help us to keep those spaces open!
Have you encountered a shift towards thinking of schools from a more imaginative perspective? In what areas of school practice do you see room for the infusion of imaginative thinking? What could imaginative thinking look like in your school context?