Friday, August 14, 2015

It's Not Just Creativity, It's The Power to Create

Image Source: User Foundry,

"People are fulfilled to the extent that they create their world (which is a human world), and create it with their transforming labor" (Freire, 1970, p. 145).

A few months back, I told the story of using 20% time in my classroom. I've written about the topic before, but this time my post was picked up by the Bright Medium publication. It was a neat experience for me. My writing and experience reached an audience much larger than I am used to. Thanks again Sarika!

I am not the only one that has experimented with, or fully committed to, 20% time in the classroom. Many inspiring educators started inquiry based, passion learning years ago. Books have been written. Talks have been delivered. Courses have been created. Creativity and passion learning are now full-fledged buzz words within the progressive education community.

Some would even say things like 20% time are fads. It is the next thing teachers are doing to follow the crowd, to be cool, or to score followers on Twitter. Perhaps there are some educators that take this fleeting attitude and do 20% to create a point on their resumé. However, my guess, and my hope, is that most engage in this type of learning for deep social and pedagogical reasons. This is why I continue to work for opportunities for my students to choose and to create. Students of all backgrounds, especially the oppressed, need to see that they can create the world they live in. I believe this notion is especially relevant today. Antonia Darder (2015) writes, "for how we construct knowledge is directly connected to the sets of values and beliefs we employ to make sense of the world" (p. 20). I don't want the essential foundation of empowerment to be lost in the 'coolness' of 20% time.

Image Source: User Didgeman,

Freire (1970) writes, "Dialogue further requires an intense faith in humankind, faith in the power to make and remake, to create and to recreate, faith in their vocation to be more fully human (which is a privilege of the elite, but a birthright of all)" (p. 88) The "power to make and remake, to create and recreate" is the true why of 20% time and this is why it is important for all kids, all communities, and even all adults. It's not just about creativity, or 21st century skills, or critical thinking, or STEM, or future employment. It is about giving people, particularly young people, the POWER to create.

Freire stresses the power to create is usually reserved for the elite, for those with privilege. 20% time can help elevate the necessity of the idea that all people create. It can honor oral traditions, cultural art, experience, inventiveness, and resourcefulness because this type of pedagogy makes a space for what the learner brings to his/her education. Students use their lived histories to construct knowledge.

20% time runs counter to traditional notions of 'banking education'. "[In a banking model] students remain objects to be managed, manipulated, and controlled, in ways that may eventually draw of them the prescribed answers" (Darder, 2015, p. 55). Intentional pedagogy that insists upon the power to create builds a conscious individual, one that acts with freedom, one that takes constructive action. Pedagogy that calls one to create builds individuals who look at the world critically, yet optimistically, connecting their knowledge to power. If 20% time is intentional in its pedagogy it becomes part of a larger critical pedagogy.

20% time grants students the power to use their voice in the classroom. Their ideas, interests, and passions become central to the schooling process. Voice and choice not only motivates students, it prepares them for participation in a larger community, our democracy. Students learn to participate in a classroom with a diversity of thoughts and ideas. Students make sense of the world from what they create. Students understand they have the power to create the world they live in. Students are empowered. You see, 20% time is more than creativity, it's about the power to create.

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