Book of the week: learning to be creative

11th May 2001 at 01:00

There are certain books that manage to be authoritative, entertaining and thought-provoking and are also well-written and richly exemplified. Few authors are able to fashion this attractive mixture. I shall add Ken Robinson's absorbing account of creativity to my list of gems.

Creativity is one of those topics that excites some and enrages others. In the wrong hands it can be twee, syrupy, smug, territorial, giving the impression that you have to belong to a special club. For Ken Robinson it is none of these, but rather a universal talent that people have, often without realising it.

Society in general, and education in particular, can squash the imagination and rock children's self-confidence. The author cites the example of millionaire ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, one of the most prolific and imaginative composers and performers of his era, being excluded from singing in his school choir because his school thought he wasn't musical. He made it despite the setback, but how many others believed the killer judgments on them and withdrew into their shells?

What I like about this book is the breadth of its scope and the use of tinted boxes to tell fascinating little stories that illustrate the points being made, highlighting tales
from history, social and economic background factors, test items, incidents from school life.

Creativity can be the preserve of a loner in an attic, but it is more likely to be a group activity. Even hermits can draw some of their inspiration from others. Because imagination and invention do not progress in straight lines, or along predictable routes, whole organisations must create and sustain a culture that promotes creativity, rather than stifles it.

On the surface, relatively little of this book is directly about education, for many of the chapters describe society generally, human functioning, the arts, and the imagination. But you could also argue that all of it is about education.

Out of our Minds: learning to be creative
By Ken Robinson
Capstone Publishing pound;15.99

Ted Wragg is professor of education at the University of Exeter

  • Picture: Paul McCartney, told he would never make it as a teacher
    • A longer version of this review appearsnbsp;in this week's Friday magazine
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