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Владислав Лекторский
Education as Creativity



Contemporary education faces a lot of critical problems. They are the result of those of our civilization.


In many centuries it was clear that the aim of education is to teach a pupil knowledge, skills and habits. The latter ones were understood in different way in different historical contexts. So the notion of an educated person changed historically. The ideal of education in ancient times was Paideia. It presupposes the education of reason, the feeling of harmony and civic virtues. The central point in this ideal is cultivating reason, because harmony, and moral and political deeds are impossible without reason. But educating reason was considered possible only with the help of teaching definite kinds of knowledge, in particular mathematics and philosophy. In the Middle Ages the main aim of education was teaching religious knowledge and abilities and skills for reading the Holy Scripture. The system of education that has formed in the most countries of the West for the last two hundred years presupposes teaching the basic elements of scientific knowledge, training some skills. An educated person has been identified with one having a lot of knowledge. According to a common opinion, formed at the time of the Enlightenment, it was the knowledge of natural and social dependencies that enabled a human being to control the environment and become a free person.


But to-day this ideal is being contested. There are several reasons for that.


The first. The development of a civilization based on scientific knowledge and technology has created a lot of problems, beginning from the ecological crisis and finishing with the problem of personal identity and inter-human relations. There is a wide spread opinion that one-sided scientific and technological progress is a deadlock in the human development. So a question has arisen: is it necessary to have as an important aim of education teaching basic elements of scientific knowledge?


The second. Now it is clear that the possibilities of scientific reason have limitations. For example, it is impossible to predict the behavior of the complex organized natural and social systems in certain points of their development (so called the points of bifurcation). So the human being can't be considered as a master of all natural and social processes.


The third. All systems of education in history presupposed that teaching knowledge and skills is in harmony with moral education. But nowadays scientific and technological knowledge is usually used instrumentally and in many cases even for non-moral aims. So teaching scientific knowledge doesn't necessarily lead to moral development.


The fourth. We are living now at the age of interaction of different cultures, of viewpoints, of styles of living, of different norms of assessment and behavior. Is it possible in such a situation to form a common ideal of an educated person?


The fifth. The fast development of science makes a more and more great part of knowledge out of date. So it is not clear what parts of scientific knowledge must be taught at schools and universities.


Traditional systems of education as a rule prefer not to discuss these questions, as they can't give answers to them.


Some contemporary theoreticians of education try to give answers to these questions, but in some cases these answers can't be considered satisfactory. I mean in particular the famous ideas of Ivan Illich about education as not an affair of schools and universities, but as a personal affair of an individual. According to Illich a person acquires knowledge first of all from everyday experience and professional practice, but not from school and special teaching. (I.Illich, 1972).


I think that these recommendations are in contradiction to important features of the contemporary civilization. This civilization, which sometimes is called an informational one or the civilization of knowledge, presupposes production, distribution and use of knowledge as one of its bases. Science is the main producer of this knowledge. Ecological problems can't be solved without science, but only with its help. So it is impossible to avoid teaching elements of scientific knowledge in school and university. The problem is what scientific knowledge should be taught, taking into account the process of its outdating.


The second problem is how to teach knowledge.


As knowledge is embodied in certain statements, one can think that acquiring knowledge is identical to learning these statements and texts consisting of such statements. But the aim of teaching knowledge is creating possibilities to solve problems by means of this knowledge. In such a case a pupil should be able to use this knowledge in different situations and be able to choose those portions of knowledge which are suitable for solution a definite problem. Knowledge doesn't only refer to a certain reality, but is included in contexts of dealing with it, in definite types of activity. The mastering of knowledge presupposes the knowledge of its criteria, the scope of its application, in other words, a reflective, critical attitude. So teaching knowledge can be successful in those cases when it means teaching critical thinking.


The development of informational civilization creates contradictions, which are directly connected with the problems of contemporary education.


The appearance of contemporary information technologies (television, the use of a computer, communication by means of Internet etc.) affords receiving a lot of information. It is a great achievement, without which our civilization would be impossible. At the same time it doesn't necessarily lead to the development of critical thinking, but in many cases hinders it. The TV images have a special force, which can block not only critical reflection, but also the abilities of imagination. As investigations of Russian specialists shows, to-day many schoolchildren during their homework prefer not to make their own texts or to think about something, but to use ready texts from Internet. The acquiring such information is not identical with the acquiring of knowledge. It doesn't help to develop thinking, but destroys it.


But the development of the contemporary civilization creates another problem.


To-day many social processes are fast acting, and a lot of social and cultural structures are ephemeral. It is a consequence of a special role of producing and distributing new information in our life. Non-standard situations arise very often, and the degree of risk in life is increasing. An individual finds oneself in such situations more and more often. In these cases he or she has to find a creative, non-standard solution of a problem. So nowadays the cultivation of the ability of creative thinking is a necessary condition of living.


One of the main aims of education to-day is teaching creative and critical thinking. Teaching knowledge, skills and habits are derivative from this. A person who has an ability to think creatively and critically can acquire a new pieces of knowledge instead of outmoded ones. He/she can apply knowledge successfully in different contexts, as this process is creative.


But how to tech creative and critical thinking? Is it possible?


I would like to formulate problems, which arise in this connection.


1. A pupil should have confidence to knowledge that is taught. Otherwise he/she cannot acquire any knowledge. But if a teacher wants to teach critical and creative thinking it is necessary to teach doubting and questioning. How can it be combined?


There is an opinion, according to which questions in philosophy, science and education are principally different.


Questions in science stimulate research of problems and tasks and indicate directions of research. Each question obtains a definite answer, and this creates a new question, which also obtains an answer as a result of new research. All the history of science can be interpreted as a constant change of questions and answers. Philosophers deal with the so called eternal questions concerning being, knowledge, consciousness etc., which have a different meanings in different historical contexts, which they discuss, try to answer.


Questions in philosophy and science presuppose the absence of ready answers and a process of search. Meanwhile in education questions have ready answers. The aim of questions in this case is not finding something unknown, but only testing a pupil’s knowledge. H.-G.Hadamer wrote that a pedagogical question is not genuine, because “…it is a question without a questioner”(H.-G.Hadamer, 1985).


Usually the aims of questions in education is to inquire what a pupil has learned. A teacher can ask a pupil, for example, when a certain event took place, how to do a sum by means of a method that a pupil must have learned etc. A teacher knows answers to his questions. Such kind of questions depends on the nature of education that exists now in most schools in the world. In the past many theoreticians of education, beginning from Jan Amos Komenski, said that a genuine education presupposes the activity of a pupil, his ability not only to find ready answers, but also to put questions to others and himself. In this connection they referred to Socrates and his question and answer method of a dialogue. But if the main aim of education is the appropriation of knowledge and skills, as it takes place in the most systems of education now, it is impossible to change the nature of education and, in particular, the type of questions in education.


2. There are norms, paradigms, criteria of correct thinking. At the same time creative thinking means that sometimes some of accepted norms and criteria can be doubted. The teacher should teach norms and criteria of thinking. And he/she should teach doubting and questioning. How is it possible? Teaching is impossible without the authority of a teacher. Young schoolchildren have an uncritical attitude to a teacher. The destruction of this attitude can lead to destruction of school teaching as a whole. But how a teacher can teach critical and creative thinking in such conditions?


3. Critical thinking presupposes a reflective attitude to own thinking. It is possible if a person can accept a position of another, to look at his/her own ideas, at his/her own thinking from the point of view of another person. At the same time in the case of critical thinking he/she should have critical attitude to positions of another person. If another person is a teacher, it is possible for a pupil to be critical to oneself from the point of view of a teacher, but it is impossible for him/her to be critical to a teacher. What is a solution of this dilemma?


4. Pre-school life of a child is connected with acquiring knowledge, which is in close relation to his/her everyday life, with his/her practical activity, with the solution of problems, which exist in real life context and are interesting for a child. So a child comes to school with a readiness to continue learning and with striving for studying. But after the first or the second years of learning many children don’t want to learn any more: their learning motivation drastically decreases. The explanation of this fact is as follows. The aim of the traditional education as giving a pupil knowledge and skills doesn’t help to create a striving for understanding, for activity and creativity, for participation in solving problems. So traditional education can't form a learning motivation. Forming motivation that gives sense to study is a special and difficult problem for the existing school. There are different recommendations how to solve this problem. Some theoreticians of education suggest to connect knowledge that is taught with everyday context. But it is impossible to do in relation to many subjects that are taught in school. Others suggest to combine teaching with some kinds of games. But it is not clear, whether motivation for playing can be the same as motivation for learning, as they are very different. So the problem is how to form motivation of a pupil to learn creative and critical thinking?


I will briefly analyze three attempts to solve these problems in the practice of education. These were made in the USA and Russia. These attempts are different, but they have common features. The followers of these pedagogical innovations interpret the latter ones as the future of education.




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First of all it is a program, which was elaborated by Mattew Lipman and other scholars from the USA and which is called “Philosophy for children”(M.Lipman, 1991). The program has been realized in the practice of education for two decades in the USA and many other countries, including Russia. The main thesis of Lipman is that it is necessary to teach creative and critical thinking in school, and that the best way of doing it is teaching philosophy in a special form for many years. Because according to Lipman philosophy in more degree, than any scientific discipline, liberates thinking and affords to doubt statements that are usually considered evident. It is important that pupils should not study philosophical texts and discuss already existing philosophical conceptions, but should be involved in philosophical thinking, should try to give their own answers to some problems that can arise in ordinary life, but which have philosophical nature. Pupils with the help of special texts and a teacher are involved in the discussion of problems that have no generally accepted solutions. A discussion, something like a Socratic dialogue, arises between pupils. The participants of a dialogue put questions to each other, answer to them, formulate arguments against given answers, give counter-arguments, put new questions etc. The class of pupils becomes the inquiry community (it is a key notion for Lipman). The participants of such a dialogue acquire not only ability to reason, to argue, but also to view analogies, to take into consideration a context, formulate hypotheses, give non-trivial solutions. They are taught ability to ask such questions that presuppose non-trivial answers. Questions of participants to each other help to find such presuppositions in their reasoning which were not clear to them before a dialogue. A teacher organizes a dialogue. He asks such questions that don’t suppose a single and known answer, but stimulate a discussion and direct it.


In Russia there are also attempts to develop creative thinking of pupils by means of introducing elements of inquiry into education. One of such attempts is so called program of “the school of the dialogue of cultures”, which was elaborated by a philosopher, a theoretician of culture and education Vladimir Bibler (V.S.Bibler 1998). The followers of the program think that creative thinking can be taught not at special lessons (as it takes place according to Lipman’s program), but by the change of teaching all school disciplines, beginning from mathematics and physics and finishing by history and literature. In this connection a teacher can put such questions, including ones about main notions of mathematics, physics, biology etc., which admit in any case several answers. Pupils become to be involved into a discussion with each other. Certainly, they are inclined to be guided by a teacher’s authority. It is natural and important. Without this education is impossible. But this inclination should be supplemented by a pupil’s striving to ask non-trivial question and answer them. It is possible, if a pupil interacts not only with a teacher, but with other similar pupils. Because in the latter case the equality of positions exists. A pupil can’t participate in a dialogue with a teacher as equal to him, to ask and object him. He can do it with his classmates. The realization of the program showed that for it the problem of learning motivation doesn't exist. It turned out that creative thinking motivates itself. A pupil engaged in creative thinking doesn't need an external motivation for learning.


At last the third pedagogical program with aim of developing the creative thinking of a pupil. It is a program of the so called developmental teaching, elaborated by the Russian specialist in pedagogical psychology Vasilii Davydov (V.V.Davydov, 1996). He and his followers have created, in particular, a method of a playing a special game by a teacher. A teacher plays a part of a pupil and pretends not to understand some questions and answers. A teacher specially makes mistakes and provokes a pupil to doubt and make mistakes. A teacher shows to a pupil possibility not to understand a question, to ask a question again, to ask a proof. A teacher creates “points of amazement” and the condition of a dialogue between pupils. A pupil finds the existence of different points of view and as a result of it he first has a certain discomfort. There is not only his own position, which is self-evident for him, but also there are other ones (of a teacher, of other pupils). A pupil learns to understand a position of another pupil, to asses it, to doubt it, to ask questions to another pupil, and so to begin to realize his own position, to be able to distinguish it from another one, to defend it, to answer question concerning it.




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So all three systems of teaching creative thinking, although they are different from each other, have some common features. I would like to formulate them.


1. All of these systems proceed from the idea that a critical dialogue is an important means of teaching critical and creative thinking. A dialogue affords to put questions, to formulate doubts, to discover different points of view. A dialogue is not a simple conversation, as it has an aim (a solution of a problem) and is directed to this aim.


2. The participants of a dialogue are pupils, usually belonging to the same class. All of them are equal in formulating their points of view and criticizing each other. Critical and creative thinking is carried out first as a collective activity. It is an inquiry community, as Lippman calls it. As a result of this activity a reflective position of each individual is formed and a possibility for autonomous and critical thinking arises.


3. A teacher plays a very important part. He/she demonstrates paradigms of a discussion and organizes an interaction of pupils. He stimulates the activity of children and teaches them to put questions and to doubt. Critical and creative thinking obeys certain norms and rules. There must be something stable in a dialogue and mutual criticism. Teaching norms and rules of discussion is not indoctrination, not an imposition of a rigid image of reality, it means creating the very conditions of a critical dialogue. Teaching such thinking would be impossible without an authority of a teacher.


4. Creative thinking is such a mode of activity, which has its own inner motivation. So teaching creative thinking can help in solution of the problem of forming learning motivation.


5. All these systems consider the process of education and the process of investigation (in science and philosophy) as not something principally different, but as close to each other. It is possible, if education is considered and practiced as creativity.




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A dialogue as a means of education can be used not only for teaching creative and critical thinking, but also for moral and aesthetic education.


Moral relations presuppose that I relate to another person as to myself and to myself as to another. Under such understanding moral behavior is not only following a certain system of prescriptions (and not a “moral arithmetic”), but first of all empathy, a feeling of problems and pain of another person, the recognition of him/her, a care of him/her. But it is possible only in a condition of a constant dialogue with another and with myself and presupposes an ability of imagination, of critical self-reflection, and of creative transformation of myself.


Art can be considered as a means of achieving a new experience of the world and joining an experience of other people, social groups, and cultures. In many cases only art can help to understand another experience, to empathize it. But it means a dialogue with other people, cultures, points of view and an ability to creatively change own stereotypes and attitudes. Aesthetic education is unique in that respect.


I think that practicing of dialogical education can be important also in solving some problems created by globalization and multiculturalism.


Globalization is connected with spreading new means of information technology (TV, a computer, Internet etc.). As a matter of fact it creates two modes of education. The first one is simple teaching means of receiving information. As a rule it doesn’t presuppose the development of critical and creative abilities, the development of a responsible person. An individual becomes only a receiver of information. Moreover such mode of education can lead to indifference to cultural values. The second mode of education combines teaching informational technologies with cultivating archaic cultural values. It creates fundamentalists. Dialogical education is a means of forming a critical and creative personality, who not only uses informational technology, but creates new knowledge, solves non-standard problems, respects different cultural values and critically interacts with them.


Multiculturalism is not a conflict (or war) between different cultural values, and it is not a simple co-existence of cultures. It presupposes an interaction between them, their mutual changes.


The current civilization is facing the situation, when it is clear that we can not be satisfied by present relations of people to the nature and people to each other. The experience accumulated by different cultures in the sphere of these relations is not sufficient to-day. There is necessity of extending this experience. It is possible to fulfill it only by taking into account the experience of each other. It does not mean uncritical acceptance of another experience. It means only that it is possible to see in another position, in another culture, in another system of values not something necessary hostile to my position, but something that can help me in solving problems, which are not only mine, but also the problems of other people and other cultures, other intellectual and value systems.


Contemporary world is facing a dilemma: either the collision of different civilisations (which can lead to a war conflict between them), or the organisation of a dialogue, attempts of mutual understanding, mutual criticism, self-criticism and mutual changes. In this case pluralism is not a hindrance for the development of a certain culture, but the necessary condition of it, and a mechanism of the development a culture as a whole. Education can play a very important role in that process. Genuine multicultural education is possible only in the context of a critical and creative dialogue.




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The “school of the dialogue of cultures” of Vladimir Bibler and the theory of the developmental teaching of Vasilii Davydov have used some ideas of the outstanding Russian philosopher and the theoretician of culture Michail Bakhtin (M.M.Bakhtin, 1986). Studying the structure of F.Dostoevski’s novels, M. Bakhtin discovered that they are polyphonic, in other words, they can be interpreted as a dialogues, as the interaction of different voices, representing different conceptual positions. This dialogue includes questions, answers, arguments and objections, elucidation and the development of a position, new questions and answers etc. As a result of the analysis of the pre-history of polyphonic novels by F.Dostoevski M.Bakhtin came to studying a Socratic dialogue as a genuine source of poliphonism. But as it is known Socrates used a dialogue as not only a means for searching truth, but also as means for education. Later M.Bakhtin elaborated the dialogical conception of all cultural phenomena, beginning from language. Every statement according to M.Bakhtin can be interpreted as a part of a certain dialogue: a question, an answer, an objection, an elucidation of a position etc. He suggested similar interpretation for literature, philosophy, science. A certain culture from his point of view can be interpreted as an obvious or a hidden dialogue with other ones. The consciousness of a person can’t be understood out of the context of its dialogue, including questions and answers, with consciousness of other people and with itself. M.Bakhtin’s ideas has influenced a lot of studies in the theory of literature, art, culture, in philosophy, psychology. Now they are becoming more and more influential in the theory and practice of education.


I think that the idea of a dialogue is a key to education as creativity, in other words to the future of education.














Bakhtin, M.M.: 1986, The aesthetics of creativity in writing, Iskusstvo publishers, Moscow, pp.281-307 (in Russian).


Bibler, V.S. -ed.:1998, Philosophical and psychological presuppositions of the school of the dialogue of cultures, Rosspan publishers, Moscow, pp. 13-87 (in Russian).


Davydov, V.V. :1996, The theory of the developmental teaching, Intor publishers, Moscow, pp. 366-393 (in Russian).


Hadamer,H.-G: 1985, Truth and Method, Crossroad Publishing Company, New York, p.327


Illich I. Tools for convivality. N-Y, 1972.


Lipman, M.:1991, Thinking in Education, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 7-100.











































































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