Hanif also said that most people have good ideas - it's just that they prefer not to think about them.
In contrast, Hanif's comment that 99.9% of creative writing students are 'untalented' - seems a peculiarly discouraging remark for any teacher to make, and calls into question why Hanif should be taking money for teaching them.
However, his words may also be about the likelihood of those students' writing finding a publisher (will it trend? will it sell? will it sufficiently conform to whatever a powerful 'they' want?), as well as the rarity of being a compelling enough storyteller to persuade the moneyed to read anything but a banker's draft.
Although - and perhaps because - people's imagination is powerful, they may be schooled to distrust it in favour of normalised/standardised/'elevated' ideas, and the opportunities for them to exercise it may become very circumscribed. Such schooling has the short-term effect of apparently stabilising society, provided enough people conform. In the long-term it is unenlightened, infantilising, unsustainable, socially destructive, and condemns the society to a poverty of ideas, the alienation of individuals and minorities, and the squandering of creative talent. In such a society, 'My Beautiful Laundrette' might never have been published or screened.
So we need to be careful not to dismiss young writers by bowing too low to the old and famous.
In schools as well as colleges, there are a number of initiatives to bring living, published writers into schools. This is often described as 'curriculum enrichment'. I am not against this, provided it does not leave the teacher disempowered or the children falsely reverential of others or distrustful of themselves - or become something which is 'bolted on' to a curriculum experience rather that deeped rooted in it.
I prefer to see a class of 30 children as one which already contains 30 writers - 31 including the teacher. Here are 31 people who use and share words to story the world and their witness of it, 31 readers and 31 co-respondents. Some may be 'writers' like Benjamin Zephaniah who termed himself a writer (=composer of ideas in words) before he was adept at all the transcriptional niceties. Conversely, although publication carries the blessing of power (somebody believes in me), it does not come with a guarantee of quality - enduring or transient (other people don't): we probably all know several examples of publications of doubtful worth or terrible effect, and plenty more pieces of unpublished writing that have the power to bring gasps of admiration, or to prick tears of joy or grief. But, more than this, we also know the value of expressing thoughts to paper or screen - a value not necessarily diminished be the paper shredded or the delete button depressed.
So we also need to be careful not to be blinded by normalising judgements to the diverse complexities and various 'affordances' of the writing process.
NWP promotes a writing community in education determined by all participants rather than by an elite of publishers, bureaucrats or politicians. No worthwhile education, least of all in writing - a classic way of teasing out thought and exchanging of views - should ever be determined by commerce or political ideology; it must be openly negotiated - and better understood.
NWP groups provide free spaces for interested teachers to debate and explore these ideas - to detonate their imaginations - and to inform their teaching of writing by their own experience of what writing can do for them.
NWP outreach director