CONTENT is KING. Or maybe not? (part 2)

On Monday, I tried to explain why I found Kieran Egan’s model of Imaginative Education (and Corbett Charter School’s living out of Egan’s model) so danged exciting. I attempted to explain it in terms of the depth of content that their teachers and students regularly swim in. Instead of skating the surface of a topic, covering what’s most important, they dive into topics, constantly uncovering fascinating details.

As I pointed out, that explanation fails. Depth of content can’t, all by itself, be what strikes me so powerfully about IE, because diving deeply into content can still be boring. (Horribly boring, in fact.)

If content-focused education is to be wonderful, I suggested, it would have to be nested inside something larger.

So let me try this again:

What strikes me so powerfully about IE is that it engages emotions, not just cognition. Furthermore, it sees all academic content as potentially rich in emotional substance.

There are two pieces of this, which I’ll explore for the rest of the week. First, IE is making a statement about human psychology: our emotions are more fundamental than our rationality. Second, IE is making a statement about the external world: virtually everything already has emotional resonance; we don’t have to try to “make” things interesting, as much as “bring out” how they’re already interesting.

Again, I’ll sketch out these two pieces this week, but in the end this discussion boils down to this:

How can we create a school that puts human interests, emotions, hopes, and fears at the center of the curriculum? How can we create a school that sees “academic content” (gods, that term is so dry, isn’t it?) as full of rich complexity that can feed many aspects of our students? How can we conceive of a school that sees itself as a portal to the wonder of the world?

Brandon Hendrickson

Seattle, WA