Lo, an albatross called Fancy

Ezra Pound said: "Literature is news that stays news." Would that the same could be said of our recent educational literature. A farrago of the banal, the boring and the bullet point, and that's just Higher Still documentation.

Try opening the PDF for Higher Still English, as re-re-revised. Try a search for the key word "Imagination" with the virtual binoculars kindly supplied by Mr PDF. The answer comes up: "No occurrences of: Imagination were found in this document." By their search engines shall ye know them.

But there is one glorious exception. One copy went to each school last December, and so far only a further 550 have been sold. The chances are this is because most teachers won't even have seen it. Mine was snaffled by a colleague at end of term.

Creativity in Education, a bonny, practical, vibrant and inspiring book, is available from Learning and Teaching Scotland at pound;5.50. Even the organisation's title is intriguing, as though learning takes place before teaching. As though we must learn before we teach. Who'd have thunk it?

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, of Ancient Mariner fame, gives us a very satisfying threefold analysis. "The primary IMAGINATION I hold to be the living Power and prime Agent of all human perception," he says, and by its capitals shall ye know it.

The secondary IMAGINATION, what we moderns usually call creativity, operates as follows. "It dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to recreate . . . it is essentially vital, even as all objects, as objects, are essentially fixed and dead."

And then there is a third, sadly familiar, phenomenon, which Coleridge calls FANCY. "Fancy has no other counters to play with, but fixities and definites . . . Fancy is no other than a mode of memory . . . and must receive all its material ready-made."

For too long in education we have been constrained to play around with the products of Fancy: fixities, definites. Mental sclerosis, or hardening of the categories.

In our own school we have just set up a wee creativity group drawn from arts and sciences alike, the practical and impractical subjects. We are going to visit each other's teaching, see how creative it feels from the receiving end.

This may even be what McCrone had in mind, but somehow it got lost in the translation. Not the agglomeration of departments into faculties, but a fresh approach to human FACULTIES.

Maybe you have to be a bit Sixties to enjoy writing this: the counter-culture starts here.

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