Imagination, Hope, and our children

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Joan Aiken believed that encouraging the development of imagination in our children would be the key to the survival of the human race, and the surest way to create hope for the future; perhaps this is the reason why we must now rely on our young people to lead the way for us on climate action.

“How can we cultivate this faculty in our children?”  she wrote, and went on to imagine that perhaps in every school there could be special classes which would:

“Teach children to use their own wits, to amuse themselves, to keep themselves hopeful, to solve apparently insoluble problems, to try and get inside other people’s personalities, to envisage other periods of time, other places, other states of being…”

…and of course her own way of passing on these ideas would eventually be by writing and sharing her stories, but this was something she realised that she too had to learn. Taught at home in an isolated village until the age of twelve, she found relating to the world of other people extremely difficult and threatening when she first arrived at a small boarding school:

Imagination 4

“Training the imagination takes time and energy. Most adults keep their imagination at low level voltage a lot of the time – we have to; otherwise life would be too grim.  We are so bombarded with news from outside; unlike our ancestors who knew only what was happening in their own villages or cities, we know, all the time, what is happening in the whole world. Nevertheless we need to help children retain their early curiosity, their urge to explore.”

The picture of the small girl above, proudly displaying her own statement amongst hundreds of others expressing themselves in a sea of placards during a recent demonstration, seemed to be a perfect expression of the kind of encouragement we can and must show our children; she is being encouraged to express her own self and allowed to be proud of it.

In Joan Aiken’s writing on imagination, and ways of teaching our children to be hopeful and positive in their contribution to the challenges of life, she concluded that patience, and indeed our own hope for the future are very much a part of the process:

imagination-1

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Joan Aiken was often asked to speak about education and writing for children; she was a huge advocate of reading aloud to children and encouraging discussion, and many of her ideas about reading and writing for children can be found in a short book called

The Way to Write for Children

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3 thoughts on “Imagination, Hope, and our children

  1. My wife Emily, having seen the overall beneficial effect in one primary school with an inspirational teacher, believes that philosophy should be taught in primary schools as a matter of course. The perspectives it can open out for young inquiring minds could beat most rote learning into a cocked hat.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There could be huge benefits from Philosophy teaching in Primary schools – when tried it seems highly successful! Children love to ask ‘What if…?’ and join in open ended class discussions. Luckily this seems to have proved its benefits and hopefully it will begin to be more widespread, here’s an article about it.
    http://www.theeducator.com/news/why-teach-philosophy-in-primary-schools/

    And of course one of the best ways of all to encourage discussion is by reading aloud and sharing stories!

    Liked by 1 person

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