Not new, but right

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Today I spent my first morning working with Plymouth School of Creative Arts, a free school just about to open in Plymouth with an ethos of learning by making and enabling young people to nurture the creativity and inquisitive approach they all have in their early years throughout their schooling.

There is a story in the making here. The cast; a stellar set of staff with backgrounds as professional musicians and artists, teachers who have worked with research scientists, teaching assistants with backgrounds as unusual as the highest levels of chefing. The stage isn’t even built yet; a patch of wasteland near Plymouth ferry port, soon to be transformed into a school built from the ground up, right in front of the first year’s intake of pupils in their temporary classrooms.

The details are evolving, but the moral of the story is already there; a sense that education is about enabling people to reach the goal of self expression, sometimes through freedom and creativity, sometimes through instruction to build their knowledge and skills that they might make a dent in the world.

As part of the staff introduction, school sponsor Andrew Brewerton related a story from the early days of the proposal of the school. At that time they were talking up the ‘new-ness’ of the concept of a school based around creative arts feeding into, and fed by, an independent art college. My colleague Pete Yeomans was at that meeting, as an interested educationalist, as a local resident, but more importantly as a Dad. As he is known to do, he took issue with this…

“It might be new”, he said, “but the parents, the community, don’t want it because it is new, they want it because it is right”.

For those of us drawn to such projects, who try to make their daily work the pursuit of what is new in education and in learning it is easy to be wowed by what is new, by what seems to be shiny, exciting or intellectually challenging.

Today reminded me of the focus that is truly important. As Pete said, we shouldn’t do things because they are new, we do them because they are right. That might take a whole lot more thinking, but it’s for a whole lot more of a reason.

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3 thoughts on “Not new, but right

  1. This is an important reminder. From my own experience of working in education, I know how easy it can be to get swept up in the excitement something new like it will be the answer for everything.

    Equally, I think this reminder still applies if you swap the word ‘new’ with ‘old’. Often things are done just because ‘they always been’ in education and that isn’t always right either.

  2. Mmm, interesting, but I’m not so sure about this. My contribution here isn’t so much about ‘new’ verses ‘right’ but I simply wonder about the concepts of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. One thing that I think is really important here is the significance of doubt. In the academic world at least, we predicate our approach on doubt, uncertainty and criticality. Knowing we are right is somehow counter to this. It smacks of certainty or at least a lack of interrogation of ideas. For example, I have real doubts over whether Free Schools are the right way forward. There are significant issues relating to them that make me uncertain (over a third being faith schools, the amount of money being diverted to them, potential divisiveness etc etc etc).
    I agree that concepts of right and wrong are rarely talked about, but perhaps that’s because they are intangibles (the reserve of philosophers and theologians) or that being ‘right’ kills debate and discourse. Certainty is like concrete, it’s grey, hard and infertile. Doubt is far, far, more productive.

    PS What’s this about ‘putting a dent in society’? Not more hammer metaphors! Can’t people nurture, contribute, help? (Just joking by the way!)

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