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Breaking the Chains that Bind us: Towards an Emancipatory Model of Creativity

Phil Clegg, Leeds Metropolitan University

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Models of creativity in education are often informed by notions derived from existentialist philosophy and psychology. This paper asks is it possible to develop a model based on an alternative approach derived from collectivist rather than individualist views of human nature? Rather than seeking the source of creativity within the individual psyche should we not be engaged in collective critical reflection with our fellows – students and colleagues alike - on the organisational and structural constraints that inhibit the development of creative thinking within the various social institutions where we work and live. Collectivist models emphasise the cooperative, synergistic and transformative aspects of our social being; individualist models the spontaneous, adaptive and transcendental ones. All aspects may be necessary for us to experience a sense of wholeness as human beings but it is the collectivist model which leads to strategies of social action and social change.
     But is critical thinking enough to release creative energy? It takes courage and an ability to accept risk to challenge the bureaucratic organisational structures that stifle and contain our creativity. We may be faced with debilitating conflict eventually leading to exhaustion and defeat. We may feel like giving up, if the challenge is too great, and seek refuge in introspection, passive acceptance of our fate or some form of martyrdom (e.g. going down in ‘glorious defeat’). Just as the energy of political revolutionaries can end as disillusion, and social detachment, our day-today desires to break the chains that bind us may come to naught. An example is someone who feels stifled within an oppressive personal relationship but who dare not leave because, without support, the alternative is even more frightening than the reality that oppresses her.
Building an emancipatory model of creativity requires personal as well as collective reflection. What then could be the features of your own personal emancipatory model of creativity? To answer this question, it is necessary to pose others:
     To what extent is your creativity dependent upon democratic personal relationships and values?
     What constraints are you aware of in relation to your own creativity?
     Which of these constraints are personal to you and which are inherent in your organisational culture?
     How important to your professional life are collective problem solving, mutual support and solidarity?
     How do these affect your creativity?
     How should we respond to the fears and anxieties of students that may inhibit creativity?
     How can political factors affecting learning be addressed?
     What limits should we put on our expectations of political change?
     What do we learn when political change is thwarted?
     And finally:
     Where does ‘spirituality’ fit in?
These questions will be further explored through examples from practice within the session.

Author Bio(s)

Phil Clegg is a Teaching Fellow within the Faculty of Health at Leeds Metropolitan University. He has a special interest in promoting e-learning within the faculty’s undergraduate and post-graduate programs, and has developed an on-line ‘learning object’ to help students of non-mathematical subjects develop an understanding of research and statistical terminology. He has a batchelor’s degree in Scandinavian Languages, a master’s in Social Research, and professional qualifications in nursing and teaching. His research interests include the application of spatial statistics to the geography of suicide in the city of Leeds.