All new teachers in Australia to receive ‘compulsory creativity training’ sounds almost sinister… ‘we have ways of making you creative’

‘That’s great news to hear that we’ve finally all agreed on what creativity is, how to teach it reliably, how to assess that, and even if it’s a thing at all. Glad we got all that settled.’


This was Tom Bennett’s twitter response. Tom takes the view that creativity is something of a zombie concept used wildly to promote a vision of an education where knowledge is incidental to the acquisition of what are referred to as 21st century skills serving to dilute subject disciplines and directed towards some imagined future. The enemy is an over instrumentalist view of education where generic skills come to replace knowledge.

He has a point, a very serious point.

I too have qualms about creativity and the way it is presented as having near redemptive qualities: in a climate where schools have been locked into demoralising accountability cultures it can easily become a slogan attached to hope, freedom and release alongside the attractive idea of creative futures.

In my previous two blogs I have addressed the question of knowledge and creativity as it pertains to a music education. I provided an example of knowledge and creativity working together, coming into conversation. I hope this helps a little.

Creativity of course is not a zombie concept any more than progression, culture, nature or any other complex idea in common use is.

In Raymond William’s book Key Words the word creative rather than creativity is dealt with. Writing in 1976:

‘Creative in modern English has a general sense of original and innovating, and an associated special sense of productive. It is also used to distinguish certain kinds of work, as in creative writing, the creative arts.’ [1]

Williams continues by clarifying the provenance of the word creative and shows how usage over time extends the scope of the term.
This is of course common to many other words we daily trade in and that become overused, over extended and meaningless catch alls.
Perhaps we should give creativity a rest and dwell a little on imagination instead.
Next week The Musical Imagination.
[1] Williams, R. (1976) Key Words: a vocabulary of culture and society. Fontana Press.
On creativity see Pope, R. (2010) Creativity: Theory, History, Practice. Routledge.

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