Innovation has its place in teaching, as in any other sphere of human activity. But in my experience, there are many teachers who are unhappy with the way that various people, both “education experts” and administrators, think that “teaching innovation” is synonymous with “good teaching”.

But don’t worry, I am not going on about that today.

In Issue 4 of the London Reconnections magazine (you can find London Reconnections on the blogroll), there is an article by Colin Flack, the CEO of the UK Rail Alliance. I am not exactly sure what this body does, but Colin is also a keen etymologist. His article takes apart the term “innovation” as it is used in the rail industry, and claims that it is usurped the role of the more useful word “ingenuity” (which shares its etymology with “engineer”), and in addition it focuses too much attention on the start of the process and not on carrying it through to a conclusion. The innovators tend to set up their big idea, and then move on and leave someone else to deal with the consequences.

To give you a taste, here is an example of his rhetoric.

There are certain things in modern life that we dare not challenge due to the danger of being seen as going against the established business orthodoxy. In this context questioning whether innovation is appropriate leads to a situation where its pursuit is seen as a given, almost without question. To compound this error, because there are received barriers to innovation, a whole new industry has built up to demolish them in order to release it. There are seminars “unlocking” it, departments “enabling” it, and strategies “accelerating” it; Directors, Professors and Champions of it. The need for innovation in almost any context is taken as a given and thus the trials and tribulations that follow are the fault of anyone but the innovator. The breaching of barriers and vanquishing of “Valleys of Death” have almost crusade-like properties.

About Peter Cameron

I count all the things that need to be counted.
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