At once provocative and inspiring, Against the Flow is a work of polemic from an internationally respected writer and thinker on arts education. Peter Abbs argues that contemporary education ignores the aesthetic and ethical as a result of being in thrall to such forces as the market economy and managerial and functional dictates. He identifies the present education system as being inimical to creativity and authentic learning and instead, narrowly focused on the quantitative measuring of results. This absence of a creative and ethical dimension in education has implications for art making in wider society. Art is shown as emerging from, and appealing to, the ironic postmodernist sensibility and mass media-led culture, while being devoid of philosophical significance.
This book opens up a fresh and timely debate about the vital power of creativity in modern education. Drawing on examples from modern poetry, literature and visual art, it is an eloquent and passionate argument for the need to develop ethical and aesthetic energies to confront the growing vacuity of contemporary culture.
Peter Abbs is Professor of Creative Writing in the University of Sussex's Graduate Research Centre in the Humanities.
'What with league tables, annual examinations and the downgrading of the point and purpose of universities, the world of modern education often seems a benighted place. That darkness is all the sadder because in a world fixated with the commercial and ephemeral, enlightened and thoughtful minds are needed more than they have ever been. Peter Abbs is one such mind ... Being both a denizen of the world of education and a defiant outsider, he has now thrown out a firebomb in the shape of this little book ... There is barely a page that does not provide a new spark of thought, or some new path to venture down.' - Anne Wroe, The Tablet
'Abbs has been an indefatigable polemicist, arguing across several decades now for a vision of education in the arts which has not dimmed yet remains to some extent unrealised, despite the many teachers he has inspired ... Against the Flow is the kind of work teachers of writing should be armed with. By placing the moment when our students are beginning to write in a context just dense enough to isolate its major challenges, Abbs helps to focus and direct their attention to ways of creating work that may see them through.' - Dr Rob Watson, TEXT
'In this personal, original, bravely outspoken and very readable treatise much concerned with poetics, Peter Abbs argues strongly for the importance of the arts ' - Patricia McCarthy, Agenda
'Many people working in education are opposed to the prevailing climate of political domination but, as a creative artist, the poet Peter Abbs is able to row upstream more elegantly than most in his aptly named analysis ... Abbs makes a powerful case for people having a significant say in their own learning, rather than being driven down a track. - Ted Wragg, Times Educational Supplement
'The message [in this book] is important for a reflective teacher who values making a case for the importance of art education in today's world.' - School Arts Magazine