‘Creative’ Methods and the Tyranny of Relativism

Oddly, many have accepted the idea that if a concept or piece of information is introduced in a fuzzy, indirect way, this preserves the free thought of the one receiving the concept or information. For example, if a teacher creates a role play activity around a particular historical era, rather than explicitly teaching the key facts and concepts, this is supposed to allow pupils to respond ‘creatively’ and generate their own understanding. Such creative responses are depicted as being the way in which young people will attain independence of mind.

But precisely the opposite is true. If information is made vague and ambiguous, using indirect methods, then pupils do not have the opportunity to question it, because it is not clearly and directly stated. A direct statement of fact invites critical thought, because it clearly presents itself as true. Critical debate requires the rational examination of competing and contradictory statements. Critical debate cannot take place when the principle of contradiction is repealed, and all that matters is personal response.

Thus a method which makes personal response central actually cripples the ability of pupils to reason. Reason requires our putting aside personal preference and holding before our mind competing propositions.

In the end, the human mind has an appetite for truth, and so some kind of truth will be absorbed through all the ambiguous activities imposed upon the young. It will be the ‘truth’ that it is their own opinion, regardless of any objective validity, which they should follow. This is the ‘truth’ which inoculates the young against any kind of serious education. They are usually very strongly convinced of it by the time they reach secondary school.


5 thoughts on “‘Creative’ Methods and the Tyranny of Relativism

  1. But what if that role play is designed specifically to introduce context and link to non text based material such as art and music?


    • I’m not suggesting that role plays are introduced without an educational purpose. I’m saying they are an inefficient and highly problematic way of achieving that purpose, and that they do not therefore help to achieve the independent and creative thinking for which we are all aiming.


  2. Just spent about 30 minutes searching for this blogpost because it relates to the idea in ‘The Teacher’s Authority’ post that self-expression based on ignorance is not the goal of education or something we want to encourage in classes.


Thoughtful and reasonable discussion is always welcome.

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