Everyone’s imagination is valid

Column: 
September 28, 2018
By Jens Nielsen, Editor, Saskatchewan Bulletin

My trusty dictionary tells me that imagination is, among other things, the power of forming in the mind pictures of things not present to the senses.

That being the case, it brings this whole notion of “Re-Imagine Education” into sharp focus. In other words, the very phrase implies quite purposely that the current state of public education might not be best suited to meeting the future needs of the province’s students.

Trust me I can envision some of you folks out in teacher land rolling your eyes at such a broad concept and being more focused on what tomorrow’s lesson plan will entail. In fact though, even if it’s admittedly a cliché, there is no time like the present to contemplate such heady matters.

Cynicism is understandable, if not even predictable. Those who have been in the game for a while have seen any number of well-intentioned and noble initiatives ultimately have little or no tangible effect.

In order for the whole Re-Imagine Education agenda to gain the sort of foothold, it needs one very simple, albeit sometimes elusive, thing to happen. People have to not only contribute their imagination but also allow equal respect for other’s imagination. It is by listening to one another that this process will have a legitimate chance to succeed. Easier said than done I know. But really, if there’s a consensus that this is about improving education at the very grassroots, community level, then it doesn’t necessarily have to be one’s own idea that is adopted – just that it’s the best one that surfaces.

There is always going to be a risk factor insofar as folks (or organizations) can be so zealously parochial that only their respective ideas can be the ones that would shape things. The litmus test should be that everyone is held accountable to the very same ethos they frequently offer that it’s all about the students.

If not to be taken as purely rhetorical, then by all means let students contribute via their imagination. Likewise, for parents and the public at large. This should not be about ownership but improvement in the truest sense.

Ultimately, education is far too complex to be constrained by something as prescriptive as government-mandated goals that might work in a factory setting, but hardly an imperfect, not necessarily equal situation. Let’s face it, if you have been inside as many schools as I have over the past two decades and seen the different circumstances under which they operate, it’s absurd to suggest that a one-size-fits-all approach is ever going to work.