In this post we are continuing with having a look at educational principles, paradigms and philosophies concluding the series about Célestein Freinet’s teaching pedagogy.
In this post we will be discussing the role of creativity and ‘hands on’ learning and teaching methods and I will depart from my personal experiences with attending a Freinet school that had an explicit focus on creativity.
Esteemed educational speaker Ken Robinson has quite a few important quotes on this subject:
“The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn’t need to be reformed — it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.” ― Ken Robinson
“We have to go from what is essentially an industrial model of education, a manufacturing model, which is based on linearity and conformity and batching people. We have to move to a model that is based more on principles of agriculture. We have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it’s an organic process. And you cannot predict the outcome of human development. All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish.” ― Ken Robinson
“Our task is to educate their (our students) whole being so they can face the future. We may not see the future, but they will and our job is to help them make something of it.” ― Ken Robinson
So – what’s the problem?
Kids are expected to come into school at the age of six (sometimes even younger), sit down on their asses to put it bluntly – shut up and receive information like ‘empty barrels’ ready to be stuffed full of knowledge. As many teachers and parents know, most kids have trouble sitting still for longer than ten minutes. And often the blame is put on the children themselves, that they’re being mischievous or naughty – where little attention is given to the actual physical state of a child’s developing body nor to the way we’ve constructed our societies to be focused primarily on what goes on in the head, while the body is considered nothing but a service vehicle for our minds.
If we have a look at the young men and women that come out of the other end of our basic school systems, many are completely unfamiliar with real life. What this means is that they don’t know how to cook, they don’t know how to pay their bills, they’ve got no clue about sex or how to care for their own bodies, they don’t know how to build things or maintain a garden or perform basic maintenance in their own home. They know very little about how the world works. Few learn how to draw, play music or do theater. Only the elite of this world have any opportunity to attend schools that provide such courses, given that their parents support them to attend such a school. The rest (and here we’re still talking about kids who even have access to education) have no choice but to walk every day to public schools with teachers that are dispassionate at best, often in beat down classrooms with old tables and chairs, poor indoor climates more resembling a prison ward or a hospital wing than a place where life is supposed to expand and unfold itself through education.
As a contrast to this bleak image, the school I went to prioritized creativity and ‘hands on’ subjects as a priority in concordance with Freinet’s philosophy. We had music lessons from the first grade and were able to select various creative courses from grade three. So I picked music as one of my subjects and therefore attended music classes all throughout my years at school. We played concerts and learned how to play all basic rhythmic instruments such as guitar, drums, bass and keyboard. But this wasn’t the only creative subject I was able to participate in. I also had ceramic classes, drawing classes, sewing and cooking classes. The school even offered aikido classes. So throughout the week we would both have mandatory practical classes, such as the sewing classes that I didn’t enjoy, but we were also able to sign up for a wide variety of classes. Each year, all December month we would drop all our regular classes and instead would go to various workshops in learning to how make candles or soap or key chains. At the end of the month we would hold a Christmas sale where we would sell the stuff we had made as well as being able to bring home things to give as Christmas gifts to our families. And who paid for all of this? The parents did through their monthly fee to the school. So as I mentioned previously, obviously it is only the elite of this world that has access to this type of education. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that creative and practical subjects virtually have been siphoned out of the public school system.
The arguments often made is that kids need to become competitive in the current global market and for that they need ‘hard skills’ and to develop cognitive abilities that enable them to become ‘players’ in the global ‘knowledge economy’. As such what many proponents of a competitive capitalistic system claim is that creative subjects and ‘soft skills’ such as the ability to collaborate does the children a disservice through not preparing them effectively for the world they will face as adults.
What people who aren’t familiar with this type of school system might not realize is that even in ceramic classes the students can learn for example math. They learn how to measure diameters without even realizing that they’re learning math because it is part of a creative and productive process. And this was exactly what Freinet realized. When you’ve got your hands on something and are a part of the creative process, it is much easier to learn and understand the abstract principles behind it. And from personal experience I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed school. The downside to the school I attended was unfortunately as I’ve mentioned in previous posts that there weren’t sufficient emphasis on subjects such as theoretical math. So obviously there has to be a balance.
The thing is that the ‘global competitive market system’ isn’t a natural way to live together on earth. It is an artificial contraption that we’ve designed and agreed to ourselves through our participation in it and through our tacit endorsement of it. What this means is that we can’t simply say that ‘this is how it is’ and that we’re doing kids a service by preparing them to compete through an explicit focus on abstract knowledge. Obviously one has to prepare one’s children to be able to support themselves – however the point that I’d like to make here is that the way the state of world is currently, what we need is not more abstract and theoretical thinking in complete separation from the physical reality. What we need is to get back to physical reality – to nurture, respect and take care of our physical world and reality. And to realize that is it in fact ourselves individually as well as together as humanity who decide what kind of world we will live in. Because although we are hesitant to admit it, that’s what we’ve already done with the world we’re currently living in.
We’re actively busy killing our own habitat through ignoring and disregarding our co-existence with the physical. And one of the primary ways this relationship to life on earth is established is through the school system. When kids learn that they have to ignore their physical bodies and what they feel, when they are taught that how their bodies want to move is ’wrong’ and ’obstructive’, how does their relationship to physical reality become? Virtually all ’physical education’ such as gymnastics and sports classes are based on competition, preparing kids to enter into the ’battle field’ of the world, where they are in a constant fight with everyone else to be the one that comes out on top. What does that teach them about their relationships to their physical bodies and life on earth?
So the bottom line is that we can learn a lot from scholars such as Freinet, who took what he saw working in his living community and applied that to the development of a education philosophy that was based on children learning in a way that is fun and enjoyable and that more importantly enables them to become healthy, dignified and independent human beings who are capable of compassion and respect for the life around them.
If we have a look at the principles that direct the current public education systems on earth as they exist now, these aren’t based on supporting children to expand and develop to the fullest of their potential. Because that potential is only measured in context to how much money a child will either cost or generate for the global market economy. Children’s potentials are seen and measured in context to how good they are at sitting down in submission receiving abstract information and regurgitating this information as part of making the wheels of the global economy turn. As such we’ve develop education systems – which literally means the places on earth where we develop what life will be in the future – that absolutely and totally disregard actual life on earth. The primary focus of ‘enjoyment’ is on teaching children how to live in imagination, in virtual realities in their minds and in dreaming ‘big’ of catching a lucky break of becoming a celebrity. Where’s the respect for nature? Where’s the care and consideration for those that suffer? Where’s the training and exercising of practical and creative skills?
A paradigm change and reform of our education systems is imperative for us to change the current direction of life on earth, which is literally heading towards the total destruction of nature as well as civilized societies. As much as we can maintain and sustain the status quo of our current world system through the education system, we can also utilize that same system to plant a new seed of life on earth. So please take a moment to investigate what we’re proposing with the Equal Money System because this is a real practical solution through which those of us passionate about education will receive the required support and funding to actually rethink what education is and should be and finally for the first time provide children with a school that is fun and enjoyable and that takes their individual needs and skills into careful consideration while being integrated into a global movement of establishing a life on earth that in fact is best for all – not only humans but also the planet as a whole and all the life that co-exist here with us.
The question is whether we want children who as adults become the same cloned zombie robots that we’ve become and who make the same mistakes that we’ve made, just because we’re too proud and scared of admitting that what we’re doing on earth, isn’t really working or whether we dare encourage children to become and develop their utmost potential to actually be able to change life on earth for all? The thing is that we are as humans not simply here to take a backseat on the ride of life. We can’t deny the fact that we’re creators and co-creators in and of this world – because every day we see the consequence of our creation. And therefore it is vital that the process of creation is incorporated into the class-room where kids not only can be creators through their direction of creative and collaborative processes – but also that because we are the creators of the world we’ve created on earth, we have a responsibility to make our world the best possible world it can be.
For more information about Equal Money and Education, I reccomend reading the following blogs
I leave you with the following lecture by Ken Robinson that is a definite MUST WATCH and LISTEN to as Robinson paints the picture I’ve been describing here in stark detail and specificity to show what it is we’re actually doing – not only to our children – but to life on earth in general.
“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”– Ken Robinson