The creativity that we see in the silent-era films of Buster Keaton is off the chart. But there is a reason for that – Keaton’s philosophy of making a film (and this in my view is an excellent philosophy for CI teachers to adapt) is that “the middle will take care of itself”. What does that expression mean?
It means in my view that, once the basics of the film are established in its first part (who the characters are, etc.) the middle – and therefore the ending – if they are allowed to happen along more intuitive lines, the story line (not planned out in advance and therefore not serving some secret purpose of teaching something under the radar) will “take care of itself”. This led to those great early films from Keaton.
However, when the “talkies” arrived, Keaton, as an established star at that point, of course got a lot of work, but by then the Hollywood studios had adapted a much more rigid way of making a film, mainly to save money. They established everything in advance, plot, action, dialogue, etc. This was a disaster to the film industry, and has been equally devastating to CI instruction since 2000-2001.
Each scene in Keaton’s new world was pre-determined. There was no allowance for ad libs, impromptu events, nor intuitive work by the actors in scenes, etc. They were to just read their lines. Where is the creativity in that? Not until TV shows like The Office with Michael Scott and company did the making of films and TV shows start to move back to a greater degree of freedom in creation of a story or character.
Keaten’s creativity in the silent era had been blanketed. As stated, the parallels with what we do are obvious. For decades, our own creativity has been blanketed by the textbook, by dimwitted administrators and by their focus on testing instead of on the research and on the pedagogy.
The system of the Invisibles allows for maximum teacher and student creativity while at the same time offering a strong mechanical pathway upon which all that can happen. The approach allows the “middle to take care of itself”, and yet once you have mastered the approach, you will never feel lost. THAT is a platform for creativity.
And by June, the students’ vocabularies will be far bigger than they would have been had you targeted certain words from lists and given tests on whether they have learned the words, had you not allowed the “middle to take care of itself.”