In his The Future of Education: Reimagining Our Schools from the Ground Up (2008), Kieran Egan first analyses the way education is largely conceived of today, then introduces the concept of ‘Imaginative Education’ (IE). Egan explores “IE’s emphasis on the importance of the emotions, imagination, and humor for meaningful learning” (p.94) and the how of implementing such a system by writing a fictional history of its implementation. This history is written from the point of view of an educational historian two and a half thousand years in the future. This history details the educational change supposedly undergone from 2010-2060 as America moved away from the school system we know today towards IE.
It’s a really nice way of suggesting how change could happen (and how to go about implementing ideas that might otherwise be shelved as utopian and hard to implement). Within this imagined future history, a student diary is cited – one that details a student teacher’s experience of taking an elective in teaching within an Imaginative Education framework. Egan writes (from the point of view of that imagined student):
“Initially the talk about cognitive tools and tool kits left me less than turned on, reminding me of the technicist-sounding workshops I’d had on stating objectives as the first step of lesson planning.
But by the end of the class I really was interested in the idea that the main things I should be thinking of in planning a lesson were tied up with feelings and images, metaphors and jokes, rhyme and rhythm, stories and wonder, heroes and the exotic, hopes, fears, and passions, hobbies and collecting, narrative and oppositions, and a number of other ‘tools’ I can’t remember now. Certainly a step up from ‘objectives stated in performance terms as far as possible.'” (p.96)
The questions posed to that imagined student teacher (to allow her to shift into a planning framework that supports IE) are great:
“Mythic Planning Framework
1. Locating importance.
What is emotionally engaging about the topic? How can it evoke wonder? Why should it matter to us?
2. Thinking about the content in story form
2.1 Finding binary opposites
What binary concepts best capture the wonder and emotion of the topic? If this were a story, what would the opposing forces be?
2.2 Finding images, metaphors, and drama [-p.98]
What parts of the topic most dramatically embody the binary concepts? What image best captures that content and its dramatic contrast? What metaphors can be used to help understanding?
2.3 Structuring the body of the lesson or unit
How do we teach the content in story form? How can we shape the content so that it will have some emotional meaning? How can we best bring out that emotional meaning in a way that will engage the imagination?
How does the story end? How do we resolve the conflict set up between the binary opposites? How much do we explain to the students about the binary oppositions?
How can one know whether the topic has been understood, its importance grasped and the content learned?” (pp.97-98)
Ref: (emphases in blue bold mine) Kieran Egan (2008) The Future of Education: Reimagining Our Schools from the Ground Up. Yale University Press: New Haven and London