McCleary explores the role of imagination in formal and informal learning through philosophical, yet accessible, discussions of such diverse thinkers as Freire, Laing, Dennison, Erickson, Bruner, Pappert and others, and sets forth principles for a dialectical method of education through generative metaphorical dialogue. Part 1 lays out and analyses current methods that restate Socratic concerns in modern terms, and that develop metaphorical methods of using feeling and imagination to enhance creative thinking and understanding. Part 2 explores the roles that our bodily existence plays in imagining, the handling of fantasy distortions that block recourse to experiencing, and the recognition and positive use of pedagogically negative fantasising. In Part 3, McClearly examines how metaphorical dialogue may be used in education, how good metaphors can release understanding better than rote learning, and how educators can come to a better understanding of their students by recognising the metaphors and hidden contradictions in their statements.
In the fourth and final Part, the author finds and criticises the inherent contradictions in methods of teaching that treat people as "meat machines", and then concludes by proposing his guiding set of principles and criteria for the design of curricula.