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Opinion of Sir Ken Robinson:

"If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original.

As reported by Will Fifield of Cosco


If this great nation is in decline as many think it is judging by the loss in competitiveness of American high school students, then perhaps we should listen to our educators carefully. Sir Ken is one of them worthy of our ear. He has some workable ideas, and they are indeed revolutionary. Excerpts and comments follow:


Most children are innately curious, eager to learn. Most can be quite creative early on. They get quite good at finding solutions to the problems they encounter. Soon enough, those problems are people, whether parents, extended family member, teachers, or simply older peers in the neighborhood. To survive, they soon enough learn how to conform. And creativity dies all too often in the process.

To quote Sir Ken:

“What happens in education, I am sorry to say, too often and increasingly, is that a dampening culture of standardization gets brought in. The curriculum tends to become very narrow. There are all kinds of opportunities that we could make available to kids that we don’t. So if you happen to be a young… Fleetwood Mac, …and you are interested in art or music, and the curriculum excludes these subjects, you may never discover that those things are things that you could be good at.”

Of course parents bear some responsibility here, too. Most children are eager to explore and learn. Many of today’s superstars in music, sports and science were led to their life calling by one parent or the other before the first grade.

”Conformity and standardization and sitting still and doing multiple-choice questions, and being tested at the end—these features of education are inimical to the kind of original thinking and confident imagination that underpin real innovation. I think as we get older our expectations shift and education tends to suppress some of the basic aptitudes and attitudes that underpin real creative work. The result is that adults end up thinking they are not very creative.”

How else could it be? Operant conditioning works to our detriment! We pioneer knowledge, and fail to use it!

”The current systems of education were developed in the 19th century to meet the needs of the Industrial Revolution, and it shows itself in two ways. One is the organizational culture of education, which for the most part is very regimented. It’s organized a bit like an assembly line. Children are divided into age groups, for example, as if the most important thing they have in common is their date of manufacture.. Why? We don’t do that in families or in the general community. It is done in schools for reasons of organizational efficiency, not for effective education.”

We divide each day up into 40-minute periods, for the same reason. And then the day is divided into separate subjects. We have standardized testing at the end of it. It’s very much like an industrial process, and it is not an accident, because our systems of mass education were developed in the 19th century to meet the needs of the new industrial economies and they were designed for efficiency, like other systems of mass production. …the dominant culture of education is oriented toward the last century, not the present one.

Sir Ken hit this one on the head. Most of us have suffered from it.


“The world is being transformed by digital technology. We have surging population growth. There are more and more demands on natural resources. The world’s becoming more interconnected, more complicated. The life cycles of jobs is getting shorter as innovation increases. If we’re being honest and serious about how we educate our kids, we need to look at the real lives that they are leading now—the lives they’d like to lead. That calls for a different sort of education to the one that most of us came through. Employers everywhere say, for example, that they need people who are creative, who can work in teams. Our current systems of education do almost exactly the opposite.”

The skill sets this writer used to lead a successful venture in this life were all learned outside the class room. And the same is true for many of my friends as well. [ed]


“Both are important. If you’re in your element, you’re doing something for which you have a natural aptitude.” … “Aptitude takes many forms. …But being good at something is only part of this. To be in your element, you really have to love what you are doing. If you love something that you are good at you never ‘work’ again. And you can tell. …Untold hours [fly} by."


"I do. …The fact is that there are great schools everywhere, but there is no single model of type that should be adopted everywhere. This is one of the ways we have to think differently about education. Schools need to be customized to the nature of the communities that they are serving. Although there is no single model, there are some common principles and approaches that I believe all schools should adopt."


"New digital technologies make it perfectly possible to personalize the curriculum. …I don't mean that technology is the answer to everything. …But it is a game changer for why we are educating our children and for how we can do it.

The big change, I believe, has to come from seeing education as a mechanical or industrial process to seeing it much more as a human organic one. Gardeners know that they can't make plants growl. Plants grow themselves. Gardeners provide the right conditions for that to happen. Good gardeners understand these conditions. Running a school or teaching a class or raising a family is much more like gardening than engineering. It's about providing the best conditions for growth and development. And if we get that right we'll see an abundant harvest of talent, commitment, imagination and creativity in all our children and in all of our schools.

"There have always been schools that have been practicing the sorts of principles I've been talking about. There aren't enough of them yet, but encouraging schools to personalize and customize education to real children will come from. …Real change almost always happens from the ground up. …As Gandhi once said, we should all aim to be the change we want to see in the world.


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