And Bettany Hughes, in her Radio 4 series 'The Ideas that make us', talks of the dynamic and transformative power of ideas, especially those which are written: 'Ideas are constitutionally creatures of movement and exchange. So, whatever synthetic restraints we impose, ideas are not ideas unless they morph and mutate, travel, socialise and run free.'
And where writing branches into poetry it is possible to break boundaries and through walls into the 're-creation ground', a kind of parallel universe of human experience. Distinguishing poetry from prose, David Constantine, the poet and translator, writes of poetry 'opening up a different way of being in the world.' (This is in an interview in The Poetry Paper, issue 10, 2013, published by The Poetry Trust.)
Similarly, Judith Anderson, in distinguishing between the qualities of theology and poetry in Spenser's 'Mutabilitie Cantos', refers to these properties of poetry : 'Theology strives for logical clarity; poetry engages the complexities and perplexities of lived experience.'
Philip Pullman also talks of the mystery of fiction writing (cf. 'Making Room for Writing' /making-room-for-writing.html). Writing has the power to speak to us and show us truths obliquely which more direct reasoned enquiry might not reach. This mystery is a valuable property of writing which it is hard to know, and impossible, fortunately perhaps, to 'level' or grade. But it is possible for anyone to practise it. And introducing children to this property or 'affordance' of writing is something which teachers of writing owe their pupils, as every child's educational right.
As technology enables ever-closer measurement of children's proficiency in language structures, so it appears that there are fewer wild and unknown places, and that their eradication is a good thing. I am not so sure. Of course education should prepare children for the reality of the world outside, but not unquestioningly. And not at the expense of their inner worlds.
Sadly, unless writing teachers themselves, supported by powerful voices from outside the system, speak up for a nobler vision for writing, they are likely to continue to be marginalised in the politically and economically driven rush for more commodified, competitive educational 'progress' only in particular kinds of writing.
So it was good to hear Ken Robinson again (interviewed by Sarah Montague on R4 13.8.2014 - first in a series 'The Educators') talk so passionately about creativity now needing to be considered as important as literacy - and to be treated with equal respect. He talked about 'opening a conversation about a different approach to education - not just based on transmission of ideas ...'. More relevantly to NWP, which champions teachers becoming their own experts through writing themselves, he urged teaching approaches which were 'sensitive to the differences in personal talent, ability, interests and passions all children have, and which respect the professional capacity and skills of teachers to respond to those differences.' (See also my earlier blog of 11.11.2013, 'Uncreative writing costs lives')
And it is possible, to increase your expertise by writing yourself (cf. Mark Watson's Oxford Brookes lecture esp. minutes 37-44), - and joining a writing group will help.
For recent evidence of the beneficial effects of writing groups, read Lorna Smith's excellent article, Diving into Writing, in which she describes the last year's journey of her Bristol NWP writing group.
Teachers are increasingly open to taking responsibility for their own professional development, and thereby demonstrate that education can be transformed for the better by being transformed from within - by the educators themselves. The good news is that more NWP groups will start over the next months - in Camden, Lincoln, Bradford.
Break out - Join an NWP writing group.
NWP outreach director