In 2010, Newsweek ran the cover story ‘Creativity in America: the Science of Innovation and how to Re-ignite our Imaginations’. The article inside, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, claimed that students in the United States are becoming less creative as shown by Torrance test scores, a metric developed in the 1950s. The cause, the authors suggest, might be too much TV and too little time for creativity at school. The solution? To turn to neuroscience. Teaching experts should develop tasks to encourage children to practise moving from left to right hemisphere thinking during the school day. The authors call on readers’ fears of national decline by pointing out that in other nations, notably Britain, Australia, and China, creativity is part of the national school curriculum. But not so in America. The premise is clear: only by engineering creative thinking at schools can America deal with the coming economic and environmental challenges. ‘The problems we face now, and in the future, simply demand that we do more than just hope for inspiration to strike’ (Newsweek 19 July 2010: 49).
Schoolchildren’s imagination, or more specifically the lack of it, is here presented as a public problem (Addelson 1993; Marres 2005). It is a concern for the future: for American predominance, for the global environment, for economically productive invention. The solution presented (as well as the measure of failure) is ‘scientific’. Imaginations have been counted in Torrance tests and will be improved by linking left and right brain hemispheres more frequently in classroom practice.
Here is another way the public problem of imagination is presented:
If we want this generation of children to make a difference, then we have to teach them to think outside of what have been the formal parameters that we generally take as real. They need to see the world from a whole other point of view, because they’ve got a lot of fixing to do. So to be able to see economics from a new perspective; to be able to see how to deal with the world’s waste; to deal with social and cultural boundaries in a new way, so that things like terrorism […] just would not make any sense […] It’s about finding new ways to deal with this world as it is, and I don’t think my generation has any longer any capacity for that – otherwise I reckon we’d be doing it (Author interview with teacher, Steiner School, 15 June 2007).
These are the words of Shirley, a teacher of nine-year-olds at a Steiner school in Melbourne, Australia (above and in what follows referred to simply using the pseudonym ‘Steiner School’. Other schools are referred to using similar terms). She also sees imagination as the solution to future crises – of economics, environments, and human conflicts. But her practices of imagination, as we shall see, make no mention of the brain’s hemispheres. Her students’ imaginations are made by storytelling, by deep emotional links to myths, and by concentrated reproductions of mental images.
Imagination is given as a solution to our collective problems. It can also be told as a solution to our personal problems. As another teacher put it,
I have come to understand the role of imagination is about being able to see endless possibilities and providing myself and others with different thinking of the possibilities and imagining, and understanding that if you can imagine yourself doing something you’ve got a greater chance of actually achieving it (Government School, author interview with teacher, 29 May 2007).
We could say that different people think about imagination differently. They can see it as a matter of brain function, or emotional connections to visual images, or providing oneself with a new path in life. But we should not rest there. I will argue that imagination does not simply look different from different perspectives. Rather, different imaginations are made though different practices:
The kids play a game each day at lunchtime; most of the class are involved in some way. They have gathered a bunch of sticks and made it into a little house, or sometimes it’s a boat, or an animal’s den. Each child has an animal name, one they have invented or been granted. As they play they take on roles – cooking, building a fireplace, adventuring along the fence line – that they do alone or with others. One girl is on the outs. They said she can play, but that she has to be wombat. Lumbering old wombat, and while she wants to play she doesn’t want to be wombat. Nevertheless, she goes and gets pine needles from the other side of the playground to make a bed, and when she lays them in a soft, prickly pile at the back of the house, the others are interested. They lie down with her.
This girl is a skilful user of imagination: turning pine needles into a bed, and her wombat self into a cosy, sleeping thing. By doing so, she also re-makes – for now at least – her relationships with her peers. Imagination in this game is obviously being done with materials (pine needles), words and labels (wombat), bodies (that adventure and lie down), and social relations (children first at odds and now lying together). The imagination children use here could not be separated from these material things; it could not stand alone as some pure imagination. These events are not just happening in someone’s mind, and if they were, nothing in this girl’s social world would change. The materiality of imagination can be obvious in play, and less obvious in a classroom lesson. But, I will argue, it is important that we work to see that in classrooms too, imagination is done.
Key to this book is the understanding that imagination is not an abstract, ephemeral, mental object. Minds have a lot to do with imagination, of course. But so do bodies (that play, draw, speak, write, and touch) and so do other more mundane objects (pens and papers, huts and hoops, books and audiovisual materials). Imaginations are practised, they are done by embodied minds and clever bodies, with other bodies, and with stuff that is physically present, remembered, or fantasised. Imaginations might be habits: patterns that minds and bodies have done before. Or they might be newly improvised, blending people and materials in novel ways. Some imaginative practices might be praised by teachers and/or peers, while others might be ignored or hidden or told to stop. Each imaginative practice will make certain things possible and other things not possible.
Teaching philosophies are at least partly about these possibilities: what we want possible for children to be able to do and to think in their future. Teachers working at different kinds of schools, in different communities of parents, with different curricula, and with different understandings of what children are, have different teaching philosophies. Their values and aspirations for children vary, and they seek to achieve these, in part, by mobilising children’s imaginations. What is imagination in Steiner practice and in practices at a special school? How important is it? What is it most importantly for? How is imagination done differently than, say, at a Catholic school?
The children I worked with were aged eight, nine, and ten, in grade four classrooms (or grade three/four classrooms). Their classrooms were in Melbourne, Australia. Each was in one of five schools with a specific teaching philosophy, a social community, and a set of needs. One was at a Steiner school. These are run in accordance with the ideas (as they are now interpreted) of Rudolf Steiner, a late nineteenth-century philosopher and spiritualist. Another was at an ‘independent’ school, one that does not have to follow government curriculum on account of collecting running costs from parents as well as the government. In this case the fees were high, and most parents correspondingly wealthy. A third classroom was at a government school, or one run by state government money and with state government curriculum. The fourth school was for children with low IQs and assorted cognitive disorders. This ‘special’ school was located in the low-income outskirts of Melbourne. The final school was likewise in a low-income area but was primarily for the children of Catholic families. Each of these schools, and these classrooms, had different goals for what children should ideally become. These goals are linked in complex ways to the community of parents, to the educational tradition of the school, and to the ideas of the individuals who work there. Along with all these differences, in each classroom imagination was being done differently.
I say ‘done’. This shows a concern with materiality and practice I share with the theoretical world of Science and Technology Studies (STS), and more specifically a corner of that world. STS is a very divided discipline, as shown, among other things, by various uses of the apparently shared word ‘ontology’ (see Van Heur et al. 2012; and Woolgar et al. 2012). The community of STS scholars I see myself as part of have worked hard to show us materiality in practice in various places: scientific labs, hospitals, fish farms, markets, schools, and more (Latour 1988; Callon 1998; Mol 2002; Sørensen 2009; Law 2012). In all these places, people use materials in particular ways and these ways generate particular objects. These objects may be multiple. Some may be standardised and some may be ‘othered’. Each set of practices has implications, whether it be for people, fish, diseased legs, or knowledge cultures. Each has implications for how things could be done in the future. In this type of STS work, we are given analyses of how things are done now, what multiple objects are generated by this doing, and hopefully, space is made for things that might be otherwise lost, sidelined, or terminated.
It is important, I think, to point out that this is not a form of relativism. By this I mean that it is not saying that different people see the world differently. This, as Helen Verran points out, would be to continue to assume that there is a ‘real world’ at the base of all our experiences that can, nevertheless, be seen differently. She calls this a ‘foundationalist’ assumption that moves us hardly further than universalism from belief in a single, real, true knowledge. Both universalism and relativism assume a separation between knower and world that can only be bridged inadequately by our representations of it (Verran 2001: 31–36). Good knowledge about the foundational world, whether in universalist or relativist modes, would be that which came closest to representing the world.
Verran presents instead a metaphysics that tells the ‘real’ as multiple and emergent in practice. Knowers, that is to say, exist in ‘communities of practice [that are] creative and generative’ (Verran 2001: 29). Objects and knowledge could not be made just any way, because how the real is made is constrained by the physical, material, and social locations of knowers. This means that our options for understanding, and for other acts in practice, are always ‘more than one, but this does not mean they are fragmented into being many’ (Mol 2002: viii; from Strathern 1991: 35).
‘Good knowing’ in this new metaphysics is not a question of which representations come closest to the ‘real’, but of what enables knowers to best intervene in the world. This is a notion of knowing that Ian Hacking articulates nicely. He says
[r]eality has to do with causation and our notions of reality are formed from our abilities to change the world [...] We shall count as real what we can use to intervene in the world to affect something else, or what the world can use to affect us’ (1983: 146).
Our question then becomes one that feminist philosophers, among others, have tackled. What are ‘good’ ways of intervening in the world? The ‘good’ cannot be something we can define as fixed and for always, because ‘goodness’ will emerge from responses to whatever is going on. Kathryn Pyne Addelson, for example, calls human lives ‘passages of discovery and creation’ and is interested in how we might most ethically follow them (Addelson 1994: 1). In this picture, morality and ethics are not fixed already, waiting for the analyst to define or uncover, but rather emerge ‘out of people’s interactions [...] moral explanation (and the categories of explanation) are constructed in social interactions’ (Addelson 1991: 83).
What Verran, Addelson, and others give us, then, is an ontology (that the real is generated in practice), an epistemology (that we know when we are able to act effectively with other agents and materials), and an ethics (that good knowing means acting in better, rather than worse, ways for other agents and materials). This is what I will call a non-foundational or relational way of understanding, a relational metaphysics. This has implications for what good research and writing will look like, and we shall see this soon.
But first, a couple of quick examples might help this make sense. First, Verran. She tells a story in her 2001 Science and an African Logic of teaching maths teachers in Nigeria. As part of her job, she helped design and observe maths lessons in Yoruba classrooms. There she was confused. The lessons that went as she had designed them often failed to engage the students. They were unable to grasp the subject matter of maths. But when teachers left the script and did the lesson ‘wrong’, they seemed to teach the children effectively. She gives us an example of two lessons on length done by measuring the students’ heights. The first used a metre ruler to measure, a way of understanding extension that is commonplace in Western settings. But this only generated confusion. The second used small cards with string wrapped round and round. The children engaged cheerfully and effectively, even though this seems like the wrong way to think about extension.
So, Verran wondered, how to explain this? She could explain this as relativism – that Western and Yoruba mathematics see the world differently. Then the ethical response would be to respect the Yoruba teaching and give them resources to sometimes move into Western mathematics. Students could then switch between the two depending on their needs. But this would reinforce the gap between Yoruba and Western knowledge, and habits and people. Better, she argues, as well as closer to the empirical experience, to value moments when Western and Yoruba knowledge-making practices are done in new ways, generating new combined knowledges (Verran 2001: 1–29).
We can also look at the work of Annemarie Mol, who has long been concerned with human bodies and how they are made in multiple ways in medical practices (Mol 2002; Mol and Law 2004; Mol 2008). In a recent piece (2012), she takes this interest into the world of Dutch dieting advice. When dieticians give advice about ways to lose weight they appeal to different ways we practise what bodies are. Are they unruly pleasure seekers that need to be disciplined by a rational mind? This body would be done by counting calories. Or are they ancient machines long evolved to desire what is bad for their modern instantiations? These bodies should be done by limiting sugar and fat. Or are they part of a culture where plates have traditionally been divided one way and should be divided another? These bodies should be done by putting more vegetables and fewer carbohydrates on plates. These ways of understanding and doing bodies are what Mol calls ontonorms (a word mixing ontology and normativity), though she is careful to say that this term is not a theory. As she explains it, ‘“ontonorms” is a methodological tool. My hope is that it may sensitise us to materialities and issues of good and bad at the same time’ (2012: 381, italics added). As we shall see later, we might call a tool like this a ‘sensitising concept’ (Blumer 1954). The kinds of questions we should ask with ontonorms are about politics, about what is good and bad for bodies, and what might be better. She gives us the alternative mode of dieting by ‘enjoying your food’. Bodies, food, and their relationships are re-imagined here, positively, making space for a new way of doing ‘good’ bodies.
These two authors give us possibilities: different ways to value mathematical practices and new imaginaries for doing ‘good’ eating. They are possibilities that exist with and against other possibilities, ones that we are more familiar with: dividing Yoruba from Western mathematics, and diets based on conventional advice about counting calories, allowing only occasional treats, and rearranging your plate.
There are conventional imaginations too, or better and worse ways of talking about and doing imagination. The call to do imagination by closing your eyes and picturing something is likely familiar to readers. So too, the imagination where you make something creative in drama or in art. Or the imagination where you put yourself into another person’s shoes and walk around. I will show how these imaginations are done in primary school classrooms, because they are being done there and they are important and interesting.
But I do not jump from these conventional imaginations to ask a conventional question about what imagination ‘really is’, because as I will argue, imagination is enacted in multiple practices. I don’t ask questions about what is necessary for a practice to count as imaginative, nor do I claim that some imaginations are more ‘imaginative’ than others. This is to say that I do not do a type of philosophy that searches for essences (see Warnock 1976; White 1990). Nor am I interested in what goes on in minds as imaginative tasks are done. This counts me out of psychology and philosophy of mind (see Kosslyn 1994; Frawley 1997; Currie and Ravenscroft 2002; McGinn 2004). Nor am I concerned with the (important) question of access to education and to powerful knowledge (Moore and Muller 1999; Moore and Young 2001; Young 2008. For an extended discussion, see Macknight, 2011a).
I want to tell about the multiple possibilities for doing imagination that I see in classrooms. What about other ways of perspective-taking, seeing ‘with’ and ‘for’ otherness? What about imagination to help relationships make sense and work? What about imagination for making connections between disparate pieces of information? What about the imaginations ethnographers themselves use to make definitions, to make classes and categories, and for doing ethical analysis? These possible imaginations are ones I will describe as being done in practice, by teachers, by students, and by ethnographers. They are generated in practice, in relation to various materials, shaped by people with complex and varying notions of what is and what should be.
Locating and Writing
I was already interested in primary schools’ imaginations when I noticed a concern with the lack of imagination in young people. I had first become interested in imagination being used in an Australian primary school curriculum from the 1930s. There it was done as a particular type of empathy in the hope this would prevent a future world war. After this failed, a new curriculum was written in the 1950s that used imagination in quite different ways to teach children to identify with their fellow Australians. This was an imagination of networked relations (see Macknight 2007, 2008, 2010). So I knew about imaginations in Victorian primary schools from a specific past. I knew about the profound levels on which imagination was to work: in forming identities, moralities, and futures. But I did not know about how imagination was being done now – in this specific time and place. So I set out to learn.
To get to one school, I walked. Two were close enough that I rode my bike, and two were so far I caught a suburban train. Surrounding the schools were (variously) an arts precinct, a leafy park, a private boys’ high school, well-maintained suburban houses, a set of scummy shops, and a tract of newly developed homes near a strip mall. Obviously, but easy to forget, these schools are physically located in place and in time. Their physical location links to their social location: communities of parents with various amounts of money, various values and ambitions for their children, various visions of what ‘good’ education is.
They were also located in more subtle ways. Each counted itself into an educational tradition, selectively reiterating values and practices that lead backwards into the past. We find out something of the educational tradition they belong to by asking about their funding structures and the fees they charge, by reading the documents they prepare for parents, and by noticing whether the children wear blazers, or polo shirts, or no uniform at all. To most Western observers the fact that a child calls their teacher by their first name will locate the school in a progressive educational tradition, while a child calling their teacher ‘sir’ will do the opposite. The state makes itself present here too, in various guises, appearing as curricula content, modes of assessment, and forms of professional development. The state is here in the very buildings it has fully or partially funded, the pay of teachers, child-to-teacher ratios, and many other things.
In each school, too, is the world (mostly the European and American world), brought by ‘international’ educational and psychological theories. This is research and theory that teachers have been taught at university or training college, that they read in curricula, and learn in professional development courses.
So these classrooms are located in Melbourne and, at the same time, they are located in the Western traditions of educational policy, funding, and practice. They are local and global in very concrete ways (Hastrup and Fog Olwig 1994; Mol 2004). They can be made both local and global in another way too. I can choose to write about the classrooms in local terms, focusing on the particular children and teachers I meet, and on the ways they operate. And I can write in analytic terms, taking the children and teachers out of their particular places and telling them in relation to theories developed in North America and Europe, by educationalists, sociologists, psychologists, and myriad others. Children and teachers can be told as related to each other or to analytic frames. The ‘local’ then is not just a place or a set of people and practices, but also a way of writing. Likewise the ‘global’ is not a place, certainly not a place that just encompasses the local, but a way of relating and telling. In this book, I try to locate classrooms as both local and global, particular and general.
Using a personal voice is part of this strategy. It is for reminding readers that it was ‘I’ who was there, really there, sometimes confused, sometimes excited. I will not hide behind the language of objective fact because if we listen to feminist epistemologists, objective facts are situated ones. They are seen from the bodies we, of necessity, inhabit (Haraway 1988; Alcoff and Potter 1993; Harding 2004 ). Moreover, there is no such thing as knowing except from the position of a body. Using the first person, ‘I’, is for resisting the easy forgetting that it takes work to turn the empirical into the analytical, the specific into the general, and that this work too could be done differently.
The world, knowledge, and knower are not separate in practice, but are only separated in the ongoing work of analysing and representing. Writing is part of this ongoing separation work, and therefore texts are part of the way academics practise in the world. Taking a broad interest in social science methods, John Law argues against the rigidity of accounts of method that insist that there are correct ways to research and write about the world. Instead he advocates ‘methods that are quieter and more generous’ (Law 2004: 15). According to Law, we need methods that remember that we come to know by being human participants in human worlds that are not governed by rules for knowing some assumed ‘out there’ from a distance. Nor, likewise, should there be any single correct way to write because to write is to communicate specifics of what it is like to be here or there. As he puts it, ‘method does not “report” on something that is already there. Instead, in one way or another, it makes things different. The issue becomes how to make things different and what to make’ (Law 2004: 143).
Working and writing in this way is not part of the reflexive turn of the 1980s, described as the navel-gazing of the self-centred scholar (Pinch 1988; for a more positive take, see Ashmore 1989; Ashmore and Woolgar 1988). Instead, it is a way to remember that knowledge is always located in bodies and that writing is not simply reporting. Moreover, it is a way to give symmetry to my accounts: if the nature of imagination is that it is performed and if teachers and children are performing imagination, then so too are ethnographers. Ethnographers, like teachers and children, should be described as having the capacity to perform imaginations in multiple ways.
In the book that follows, I present five ways to practise imaginations which I see as distinct. Each is important in a particular classroom, but this is not to say that it is the only imagination being done. Nor is it to say that there are no other ways of doing imagination beyond these five. I present these five, and each to a chapter, for two reasons. One is the simple need for coherence and tidiness. Multiplicity, complexity, mess – all exist in practice, but in practice, as we all know, it can often be difficult to work out what is going on.
The second reason to present five distinct imaginations is to be of assistance to practitioners: teachers, parents, others who work with children, educational theorists, curriculum designers, ethnographers, and anyone else who may wish to explore the possibilities of their own imaginative practice.
As such, I present the five imaginations as ‘sensitising concepts’. Taking this term from Blumer (1954), I wish to point out, as he did, the difference between ‘definitive’ and ‘sensitising’ concepts:
A definitive concept refers precisely to what is common to a class of objects, by the aid of a clear definition in terms of attributes or fixed bench marks […] A sensitising concept lacks such specification of attributes or bench marks […] Whereas definitive concepts provide prescriptions of what to see, sensitising concepts merely suggest directions along which to look […] They rest on a general sense of what is relevant (1954: 7).
As I worked to discern imagination in its multiplicity, I tried very hard not to have a preconceived notion of what imagination is. When I went into classrooms I didn’t know what I would see, and I tried to notice imagination in its broad and multiple doings. Obvious were times when teachers or children said the word ‘imagination’. What practices were they labelling for me? I also used the teachers’ own accounts of their values to guide my analysis. To take them seriously is to do justice to their ambitions for the children they devote their days to. Obvious too were the moments that puzzled me, times when connections were made that I simply didn’t really follow. This happened, for example, when children showed me workbooks that said their fingers were like the stars. How was imagination mobilised for this to make sense to children? (Verran 1999). But these were not the only practices I saw as important. I also worked to notice things that happened repeatedly, patterns and clumps of practices that seemed to have to do with imagination. If, for example, the teacher wrote a starter sentence on the board for creative writing each day, and each day forbade certain subjects and words, then each day in creative writing imagination was simultaneously mobilised and constrained in very particular ways.
In observing and taking part in these classrooms, being attentive to the work being done, the words used, the surprises felt, and the habits reiterated, and then working as an analyst shaping and presenting this text, I have tried to catch something of how imagination is being taught and done in different ways. I have also looked for careful ways of describing the differing imaginations which I have encountered and write about, so as to do justice to this ethnographic material while also generating a collection of imaginations which might be helpful for others. In other words, my types are tools, sensitising concepts to help us notice and know. It just happens that we – teachers, children, myself, and hopefully readers – feel comfortable to call all these sets of practices ‘imagination’. It is interesting, this, and shows again the useful vagueness of language that it can hold so many practices together.
This book tells several interlinked stories. All of them are set in primary schools in Melbourne, Australia, and at desks shortly afterwards. All concern the imagination of teachers, children, and ethnographers. And all are part of an attempt to show ways of enacting imagination in classrooms and considering how ‘good’ imagination and ‘good’ teaching might be done in non-foundational or relational ways.
One string holding the book together is contained in the figure of the imaginative ethnographer. This ethnographer is learning to do ethnography in classrooms, looking always at the practices that make real and commonplace what we normally think of as an abstract mental category. She is learning to watch and listen and categorise, to think and imagine, in new ways. She is learning to work with non-foundational terms and begins the tricky work of managing categories as contingent outcomes.
These are the stories I start with. They are about how ethnographers and the rest of us think about classrooms (and other research sites), about data analysis, and about definitions. They are about how to reimagine these things so that we might become better about thinking and acting in classrooms, doing analysis, and defining imagination. These first chapters frame and explain the more empirically focused chapters in part two. I hope that people who are interested in theory and in doing ethnography might really enjoy these first chapters, but skipping straight to the second part and returning to part one is always an option.
So these first three chapters ask what thinking with a relational metaphysics might mean for how social researchers think about their own knowledge practices. First, I wonder about how to re-conceptualise the object of our knowledge. What are social groups, or more specifically, what are classrooms? I suggest that they can be usefully understood both as units that nest within other, larger units, and as ordered and ordering assemblages. I use the notion of ‘classed and classing bodies’ to point out that students, teachers, and researchers are part of ongoing processes of classifying each other and the world more generally.
In chapter two, I think about definitions: how we define imagination and how we think about definitions themselves. I argue that we generally think of meaning as something fixed and singular, where we might better think of it as being multiple because it is done in practice. Meanings, I say, are conglomerations of our practices, sticking together in particular ways because of our backgrounds, our beliefs and aims, and our work. We will see this through how our five teachers talk about what imagination is.
Next I extend these questions to wonder about the practice of classifying research materials: in this case the pictures children drew for me under the heading of ‘a time I used my imagination’. I argue here that researchers’ analytic practices are bodily and habitual. But with their bodily imagination a researcher can find new ways of ordering their information and this makes for different theoretical claims. I suggest that these claims should be assessed not in terms of truth, but in terms of ethics. Putting materials into different orders, after all, does not change their truthfulness, but it does change the work our accounts might do in the world. This again is to make a link between how we know and how we live.
I do not claim to have the solution to the public problem of teaching imagination as if there were only one for all times and places. But I do have my stories about how imagination is framed and developed with children in practice, and I have claims to make about which are better and worse for living in the world as I envision it to be. This is done through the order of chapters in part two. I begin with stories of what I name as ‘representational imagination’ being done at a Steiner school. This imagination is foundational by its nature, encouraging children to form pictures in their minds of the ‘really real’, then find ways to make physical copies of these pictures. Deep within these practices is the platonic divide between the real world and human knowing of it. This divide also lies deep in our understandings of what ethnographic truth and ethics are. I explore how we might aim beyond representation in the conclusion of this chapter.
I then move in chapter five to a high-fee-paying independent school, where imagination seems to be done as ways to perform oneself as an imaginative and humorous person. Children are to act imaginatively, but not imaginatively in just any way they like. For all creative performers, I suggest, some form of discipline is required. This can be discipline of time, bodies, sounds, or creative processes. Discipline is essential if imagination is to transform things in the ways intended.
We turn next to the imagination practised at a middle-class, suburban, government school. Here, children are taught to take the perspectives of others in ways I initially assumed were intended as empathetic. I gradually noticed, however, that children were not successfully seeing the world with the eyes, or from the shoes, of others. Moreover, I gradually came to realise that the teacher was not aiming for this limited form of perspective-taking, but for something broader and more flexible. This is an account of the range of ways we can do and think about perspective-taking. This moves us beyond a relativist stance that says there are multiple views of the world that we can jump between. Instead we are working towards a relational account of imagining, an account that is extended in the chapter that follows.
In this seventh chapter we focus on a classroom at a special school for low-IQ students. Here, where children are described as dangerously self-involved, imagination is practised as ways of relating oneself to others. These are techniques by which children are to recognise that others have hopes and needs. Imaginative scenarios are used to show children that by imagining together more can be achieved. It is in the practices of imaginatively interacting (even at the low levels achieved by these students) that we begin to find relational imagining being done.
In the conclusion, we move from practices of imagining that aim primarily at social knowing and living to those that aim for conceptual knowing. Starting with the practices of the teacher at a Catholic school in a low-income area, here we look at imagination as making connections between pieces of information. We then ask what habitual modes of connection-making look like at the other four schools. Again this is a story that moves us from foundational to relational types of knowledge-making, though now the knowledge in question is more conceptual than social. This is a conclusion that shows how we might imagine as relational thinkers.
I return to questions about the future in the afterword. There I wonder what the stories I tell might do in the world. I wonder about how the multiple imaginations I describe are related and how we might imagine relationships between multiple imaginations. I wonder about what parts of my account might travel best with my readers. It is a conclusion too, but in a more reflective mode.
The stories I tell are personal and imaginative, but at the same time they are as real as my abilities to notice and communicate can make them. I hope that from reading these stories, or some of them, readers might notice their own performances of imagination, and those of the people around them, and wonder afresh what they mean for good knowing and good living in the future.