“We are educating people out of their creativity”
Sir Ken Robinson
Sir Ken Robinson’s ideas on education are not only impractical; they are undesirable.
If you’re interested in education, at some point someone will have sent you a link to a video by Sir Ken Robinson, knighted for services to education in England in 2003. He has over 250,000 followers on Twitter, his videos have had over 40,000,000 views online, and his 2006 lecture is the most viewed TED talk of all time. The RSA Opening Minds curriculum his ideas are associated with is taught in over 200 schools in the UK. He clearly has some influence.
What explains such iconic influence? Like a magician’s performance, explaining the magic helps to dispel it. Humour, anecdote and charm combined with online, animated media explain why it’s gone viral. Jokes get contagious laughter from his audience in the video, and as online viewers, we laugh along too. Anecdotes about a little girl having the pluck of drawing a picture of God to show everyone what he looks like, or about Shakespeare as an annoying little boy, are part of this charm offensive. And the RSA graphic illustration being drawn before our eyes is just a very cool way of animating ideas.
Sir Ken’s ideas are incredibly seductive, but they are wrong, spectacularly and gloriously wrong. Let me explain why. But first, beyond the jokes and anecdotes, let’s get to the nub of what the ideas actually are.
In a few sentences, this is his argument about education:
1. Schools kill children’s innate creative talents because…
2. The school system prioritises academic ability.
3. The system neglects other intelligences.
4. Creativity is as important as literacy.
5. Subject hierarchies of English, maths & science over drama, dance & art are damaging.
6. We are in thrall to conformity rather than diversity of intelligences.
7. So we must transform how the system nurtures talent and intelligences.
All that glistens is not gold
Here are some select quotations from his talks and books that illustrate his ideas:
1. On Innate Talent
‘All kids have talents, and we squander them ruthlessly.’
‘We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it.’
‘Education dislocates people from their natural talents, buried deep; you have to create circumstances where they show themselves.’
2. On Academic Ability
‘What is education for? Who succeeds? Who are the winners? The purpose is to produce university academics. The whole system is predicated on academic ability, a protracted process of University entrance. Our system has mined our minds for this commodity….’
3. On Multiple Intelligences
‘Academic ability is seen as intelligence; others are not valued, or stigmatised.’
‘Education should be personalised to every learning style.’
4. On Creativity
‘Schools kill creativity.’
‘Creativity is as important as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.’
‘Creativity as I mean it is just a metaphor for multiple talents and intelligences.’
‘The education system discourages creativity.’
‘What we know about children is this: children don’t need to be helped to learn, for the most part. They are born with vast, voracious appetite for learning … evolve in the womb with appetite… You don’t teach your child to speak, though we do teach them to write. Writing appeared much later in human evolution. But they have a vast appetite for learning and it starts to dissipate when we start to educate them and force-feed them information.’
5. On Subject Hierarchies
‘Every education system on earth has the same hierarchy of subjects – why maths and languages and not drama and dance?’
‘The academic curriculum is based on a series of assumptions that are irrelevant to our current circumstances’.
‘I believe the way we have to go is not to go back to a subject-based curriculum.’
‘I think we should question that there are subjects… It’s not like we don’t know; we know what works in schools; and we know that there is a better alternative to narrowly conceived subject-based curricula that enshrine a hierarchy.’
‘The reason I don’t like the idea of subjects is that it suggests you can differentiate the curriculum purely on the basis of information or propositional knowledge. History is not just a bag of content, it is a discipline, a process of reflection. I just think it’s based on a false premise that you can lift information out of the world and pin it to the wall like a butterfly, and that is what the old academic curriculum was too much about, what we’re trying to get away from.’
6. On Conformity
‘The big issue is conformity – a fast-food model where everything is standardised, not customised.’
‘Industrial systems are impersonal and emphasise conformity in the curriculum and teaching methods and standardisation in assessment.’
7. On Transformation
‘We must rethink the fundamental principles of education.’
‘Reform is no use any more – that’s just improving a broken model. What we need is not evolution but a revolution, for it to be transformed into something else – one of the challenges is fundamental innovation.’
‘It’s a change from an industrial, manufacturing model of batching people – based on agriculture, not mechanic but organic – to create conditions under which they can flourish. It’s not about scaling a new solution – but where we allow people to create their own solution, a personalised curriculum. We must revolutionise education. We have to change from industrial to an agricultural model, to where schools can flourish tomorrow.’
‘It’s already happening – in Austin, Texas, a whole district has given every kid an iPad. It’s a revolution in the way they’re teaching and learning. And you can multiply the example. The system is already adapting.’
iPads for all?
Seductive but Wrong
These ideas are very, very seductive. It’s easy to be enthused by the grand conceptions of ‘talent’, ‘multiple intelligences’, ‘revolution’, ‘innovation’, ‘paradigm shift’ and ‘transformation’. It’s easy to recoil from the horror of ‘conformity’, ‘standardisation,’ ‘academic ability’ and ‘hierarchy’.
Head of English Alex Quigley has written convincingly here on how seductive these ideas are, and why we should mistrust Ken Robinson: initially ‘entranced … enraptured … infatuated’, he soon felt ‘beguiled’, ‘frustrated’ at the ‘cult of personality’, then ‘healthily wary’. Some, though, were not so seduced. UK education blogger, teacher, author and expert on education research Tom Bennett has challenged Sir Ken’s ideas:
‘There are many dangerous ideas he promotes that, while well-meant in root, bear dangerous fruits.’
‘The suggestion that the contemporary curriculum is somehow the death-knell of creativity is nonsense.’
‘The idea that schools somehow drive creativity out of a child is laughable.’
‘I tire of someone who has never been a classroom teacher telling me what classroom teaching is like, or how children should be taught. Being told by a non-teacher with a PhD in education how to teach is a bit like being told by a virgin how to get laid.’
‘His theories of what creativity is, and how it must be taught, are sophistry and illusion. There isn’t a shin-bone of evidence to support what he says.’
‘… easy to find inspirational, but empty. It’s far harder to inspire someone with concrete and practical ideas. Superficially convincing but ultimately brainless.’
Cognitive scientist Dan Willingham has also challenged Sir Ken’s approach:
‘Robinson suggests that what’s needed in education is a “paradigm shift”. Maybe so, but Robinson makes a poor case…’
‘I lose confidence in Robinson because the framework in which he puts education and education reform is not in the least revolutionary. In fact he’s tapping a very rich, very old vein of thought… I want Robinson to tell me what’s going to make things different this time around.’
‘My other problem with this video is that some of the details are inaccurate. Getting details wrong makes me less confident that Robinson is getting the big things right, and failing to acknowledge previous attempts to change the paradigm makes me uncertain of his vision.’
Quigley, Bennett and Willingham are right: the evidence isn’t often on Sir Ken’s side. For example, in his 2006 talk (with 25million+ views) he mentions that the reason why women multi-task better than men is probably because the ‘corpus callosum’ in the brain is thicker in women. It turns out this is from one study in 1992. The evidence from a meta-analysis of 49 studies from 1980 to 1997 shows that ‘no sex difference could be found in the size of the corpus callosum, whether or not account was taken of larger male brain size.’ This is just one example of the faulty evidence for his claims.
Practice is the path to mastery
Others are using Hans Zimmer and William Shakespeare as examples in his anecdotes. The reason for their creativity is not innate talent. Zimmer was the son of two musicians, who grew up in a music studio and played by himself for countless hours. As Shakespeare expert Rex Gibson says:
‘Shakespeare is an outstanding example of how schooling can foster talent. Schoolboys learned by heart over 100 figures of rhetoric. His schooling provided an excellent resource for the future playwright. Everything Shakespeare learned at school he used in some way in his plays. Having mastered the rules of language, he was able to break and transform them. On this evidence, Shakespeare’s education has been seen as an argument for the value of memorising and of constant practice.’
Schooling can foster talent
Unwittingly, Sir Ken has stumbled on the very example that belies his idea that traditional schooling kills creativity. And this is true not just in the musical or artistic sphere, but the political sphere too. Nelson Mandela in South Africa and the Black Panthers in America turned their traditional education to radically revolutionary aims.
How is he wrong?
Sir Ken’s ideas aren’t just impractical; they are undesirable. Here’s the trouble with his arguments:
1. Talent, creativity and intelligence are not innate, but come through practice.
2. Learning styles and multiple intelligences don’t exist.
3. Literacy and numeracy are the basis for creativity.
4. Misbehaviour is a bigger problem in our schools than conformity.
5. Academic achievement is vital but unequal, partly because…
6. Rich kids get rich cultural knowledge, poor kids don’t.
1. Talent is not innate
A growing body of research shows that talent isn’t innate, waiting passively like a tooth ready to be extracted. Research collated in books from Malcolm Gladwell, Carol Dweck, Matthew Syed, Daniel Coyle, Geoff Colvin, Daniel Willingham, Doug Lemov and Paul Tough show that natural talent is a myth; it’s only dedicated, determined and disciplined practice that leads to great achievement.
2. Multiple intelligences don’t exist
Dan Willingham has summarised the research and shown that learning styles do not exist; on multiple intelligences, ‘for scientists, this theory of the mind is almost certainly incorrect’: ‘The fact that the theory is an inaccurate description of the mind makes it likely that the more closely an application draws on the theory, the less likely the application is to be effective. All in all, educators would likely do well to turn their time and attention elsewhere.’
3. Literacy and numeracy are the basis of creativity
In the UK, 17% of school leavers leave school functionally illiterate, and 22% leave school functionally innumerate. Ask any parent what they would prefer: that their child left school unable to read, write or add up but able to dance and draw creatively, or unable to dance or draw creatively but able to read, write or add up. The reason why there’s a hierarchy of subjects is because some are more empowering than others. If you can’t read, you can’t learn much else. If you can’t do arithmetic, you can’t become a teacher, doctor, engineer, scientist, plumber or electrician. Numeracy and literacy are complex evolutionary applications of civilisation; they take a great deal of time, practice and expert guidance to master, so we dedicate a lot of time to them in school, and rightly so. Sir Ken is wrong when he says children do not need to be helped to learn, for the most part: children do need to be helped to learn – every teacher knows that. We don’t dedicate so much time to dancing and drawing because they don’t disempower you so much if you can’t do them.
4. Misbehaviour is more damaging than conformity
In any classroom, without compliance with instructions, no one learns anything. Disruptive behaviour is chronic, particularly in the most challenging schools. The problem for many teachers is not so much conformity, but rather pervasive disruption to teaching. Self-discipline is not an evil weed to be uprooted, but the foundation for effective learning. But then again, Sir Ken has not been teacher in a tough school – nor any primary or secondary school at all.
5. Academic achievement is important, but unequal
Strong academic achievement in private schools allow 96% to go to University, and in the UK commandeer 70% of the jobs as high court judges, 54% of the jobs as doctors and 51% of the jobs as journalists, despite only educating 7% of children. Yet only 16% of the poorest pupils go to University, due to persistent academic underachievement. It’s no good Sir Ken disparaging the education system’s focus on academic ability; closing the gap in academic attainment is vital for social mobility, social equity and social justice in this country.
6. Subject knowledge is vital for critical and creative skills
Decades of scientific research shows the importance of broad and domain-specific knowledge for reading, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. So it’s no good Sir Ken disparaging subject-based curricula. All over the world, mastering subject disciplines is the route to success. It’s no coincidence, no middle-class industrial Victorian conspiracy that China, South Korea, Canada and Scandanavia all organise their systems like this, as global expert Tim Oates explains: ‘In all high-performing systems, the fundamentals of subjects are strongly emphasised, have substantial time allocation, and are the focus of considerable attention’. It’s the most effective way of organising teaching and learning, because, as Daisy Christodoulou explains: ‘thinking skills are subject-specific; our working memories are limited and easily overloaded by distractions; and pupils are novices,’ not experts, and so require expert guidance.
In short, Sir Ken is wrong on education: profoundly, spectacularly wrong.
So next time someone sends you a link to one of his videos, perhaps you could send the link to this blogpost back to them – what Sir Ken got wrong.
I saw this video shortly after it was released. Yes it was entertaining and seductive, yet I immediately, felt uncomfortable. Doing just a little fact checking and thinking these ideas through, I came to the same conclusions you have here.
Tim, Robinson thoroughly supports his ideas in print. His videos are only a brief introduction. I recommend you read his books and think again.
I think Sir Ken is right. Creativity is VERY different from literacy. We are a creative nation and creativity has thrived because it is ignored/squashed by schools and universities. Given that our GDP is strong in our creative industries – I would suggest that this was promoted by 3 factors.
A. Creativity being squashed at school
B. Availability of social security and grants to develop: Writing. Art. Acting. Music
C. Subsidy for intelligent and commercial creativity. Beethoven is as important as The Beetles.
Philippa Collie Cousins
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Our current system promotes “point chasers” rather than seekers of knowledge. Students need to seek more for themselves, and there are many others out there who are promoting that schools be re-structred to solve these problems. Getting rid of the hierarchy of subjects, and moving toward a more students centered approach does not mean throwing rules out the window. Students would still need to conform to the rules, they would just be more empowered to be responsible for their own learning (within guides determined by the instructor). Students would still also learn reading and math. This would also allow for personalized or differentiated learning that is manageable for an instructor. Good dialogue, but Sr. Ken is right!
This is the dumbest website I think I may have ever stumbled upon … the person who made this should be flogged …. I award you no points and may god have mercy on your soul
A flogging, no points and possibly divine punishment. I dread what you dish out in a bad etsy review.
A couple of things: First, Shakespeare’s genius with language can’t really be accounted for by his schooling – otherwise, presumably everyone in his class would have been able to write plays like his. Furthermore, Rex GIbson’s extrapolation is just that: an extrapolation. The history of Shakespeare’s education is also unknown. Stratford Grammar School is supposed to have provided his education – but there are no records of this.
Secondly, the Black Panthers came from a variety of backgrounds but some of the key players, e.g. Huey Newton were self taught – they certainly didn’t receive a state education that ‘fostered their talent’. If you want to find out about the black experience of education in US (though East Coast rather than West) you could try Jonathan Kozol. He wrote a number of books about his experiences of how black kids were systematically disadvantaged by their education.
I think Sir Ken’s key points: that our education system is linear and run on an industrial, production line model in which children are taught in batches as though age was the most important thing about them are broadly true. Certainly, the institutionalisation of learning has created significant issues.
In my view, our systems of assessment and the obsession with ‘measuring’ it is a huge problem
This seems to be more about generating data for government and policy makers rather than about young people’s learning.
I wouldn’t dismiss all of Sir Ken’s thinking. I think he’s tapping into some people’s genuine experience.
The truest thing in the Robinson video is this: kids differ, and a complex, diverse culture needs those differences recognized and celebrated and built upon. The CCSS advocates like to talk about education being a race to the stop of a stair. I think of it as a garden with many, many paths.
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If talent isn’t innate, someone is going to have to explain to me what forces were in place that enabled me to sit down at a piano for the first and start playing songs….when I was three.
Have a conversation or two with some teachers and students who have experience with common core and ask them what they thought. Ask the students how they felt when they had to bring a stupid slip of paper home for their parents to sign because they missed a target. Standardized tests and absurd programs such as common core are developed by people who desire control, but need to rely on external justification and numbers because they cannot think for themselves.
You should go buy a box of crayons and a coloring book and practice coloring outside the lines. It’s fun.
Actually, being artistic is the least influenced by genes, if you look at Shakesaft et al, 2013.
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I find this blog a bit f a downer, really. Sorry, but creativity IS innate. What isn’t innate are the skills which need to be developed in order to keep that creativity. And our standardised testing creates standardised learning in a non standard world. Robinson is one man, but the mountain of research conducted shows time and again how irrelevant and outmoded the current teaching and learning model is.
Point 6 is a classic. Sorry, but American and Australian education dictates an increasing amount of knowledge to be memorised to be regurgitated for a three hour exam, of which thirteen years of schooling depends. How is this structure relevant to any workplace?
This blog has such a narrow perspective. Sad it is given precedence in Google.
I agree . . . if we look at the purpose of ‘education’ and how we develpoed it, to train kids to grow with skills which suit the growth of industry, giving rise to ‘job culture’ then (to my eyes) the system we run has run it’s course. This article is a narrow and inside the box opinion. It has left out some key points that Ken Robinson made which tie the main points into an ‘outside the box’ (objective) point of view. ie; the job culture being born through the industrial revolution and the age of the enlightenment – geared to developing technology which would some day eleviate the need for human labour. . . we have now reached that point and yet we still run the system which replaces the creative/learning through playfullness which was once childhood with militarised training style education (education does not specifically mean learning in the sense that it gives all good things).
We are depriving children of a forgotten idea of what childhood is in favour of preparation of a life in service of an obsolete paradigm.
Another point hilighted a failure of the system to allow children to learn in a direction which they naturally are pulled . . . *”as if the only thing they have in common is their age”.
I think if we look at the explicit purpose of ‘the education system’ then it sounds great but it seems to me this is out balanced by the implicit effect it has ie; through trying to treat kids like learning machines or empty vessels to be filled with ‘stuff’ and pumping information into them we are creating statistics of conformity and mental ilness – varying levels of success and failure.
I personally prefer a talk which has a bit of creativeness about it, none of the humour or annecdotal content takes away from the powerfull truth therein. Our world has changed and we need to break the old habits born of a different time, replace/evolve them to favour childhoods of learning through play, otherwise we are not going to change the destructive dirrection our species is headed.
I would see a system which dirrects through teaching how to learn and let the children be the drivers of their own learning dirrection, but there are many aspects of our culture which would prevent that idea from even being entertained – one of them being that we all came through this system and it is very hard to imagine a new reality. Children are the future, let’s not flood their minds with old ideals 🙂
” …let’s not flood their minds with old ideals.”
Some of the best ideals are the oldest, in fact universal. Let’s be careful not to get carried away with good intentions.
Ken Robinson spent a decade training teachers at the University of Warwick. I think it’s fair to say that he has classroom experience. Micheal Gove, on the other hand…
I love reading a post that can make men and women think.
Also, thanks for allowing for me to comment!
such posts,topics leave something to think time and again,thanks i got the opportunity to comment
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Ken Robinson gives the impression that he is a great educationalist – but he shares with so many ministers, journalists and other detractors the belief that our education system is seriously flawed and that only his ideas can save it.
In reality, most students get a pretty broad education, many become artists, designers, entrepreneurs etc.
If he could demonstrate the positive effects of his ideas I would be more impressed.
At present I am only impressed by his rhetoric.
It is always the way of myopic thinkers to bash the new. Sad I would bet non of you are an artist of any kind. Try it you may like it. The arts are the most important subject. Period. Sir ken is brilliant and many of you need something to rail against to feel better. Look at all the good it has done to be creative
The whole problem with this article and with those who you use as your evidence is down to what you think education should be about. Academic results. As someone who did teach in a tough comprehensive in East London for many years, I can tell you that, from my experience, the current system of a purely academic based education (influenced by what the universities WANT rather than what the students NEED) fails many of the students in it. If you are either academically gifted or someone who knows how to play the exam system – you are rewarded by grades and accolades. If you are not – for various reasons – one of the above or if you are one of those students who from an early age realises that half of what you are taught in school has absolutely no relevance to what will happen once you leave education, you beome more bored or worse disheartened. It is difficult for someone to be told for half their day that they have failed to achieve what someone else has set them to achieve. So, they become bored or frustrated and then they begin to misbehave. You can throw as much scaffolding, as many study skills and all the Oxbridge educated teachers as you want at them – if someone cannot see the relevance of something they are working on because they know that their future does not lie in an academic route or that they feel that they are a failure every day of their lives, why are they going to bother trying to engage. Of course public schools do well. Its not the teaching in many cases – I have seen some of the worst teaching ever in private education – but because each of those students know that they have a route mapped out for uni and beyond. They have a tradition of uni attendance in their family, they have financial security (in most cases) and their future has been plotted out already in terms of some sort of educational route – school – uni – job. Perfect. If you dont want to go to uni however, that route is a long one to go down and a bit of a wasted journey.
The main point Sir Ken was making – and yes he is an idealist – was that education should not be about the goal of univeristy or academic success. It should create a curriculum in which all can engage and in which all skills, talents, levels of ability and approaches are catered for. Consecutive governments, and instiutions such as the Ruseel Group have overseen a drop in the arts being followed at school and the present government is openly hostile to the creative arts. Teh irony is that in their own public school which they attended, the creative arts flourish and are seen as manifestly important to the whole education of the child. I embrace Sir Ken and also the more pragmatic approach of people such as Gove but hyprocicy in our education system should not be condoned.
Education does not serve everyone well. Teachers don’t listen enough and interrupt too much. Sir Ken is right to question.
Are there any schools which follow a ‘Ken Robinson’ approach?
He uses cute antidotes and humour because he is a good public speaker. If he were to stand at the head of a room full of people and just regurgitate facts and statistics….well, he would be about as interesting to listen to as your average public school teacher. You yourself are a teacher and I get the feeling you are a little threatened by his words – don’t take it personally, he is not blaming teachers he is targeting system.
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As an HLTA and undergraduate working in Early Years, I can already see that children’s creativity is knocked out of them at an early age in preference to Maths and English. We do not all have the same learning styles, we are not all academic, some children much better by being creative, but not at the expense of the 3R’s, creativity can enhance this process for them. Had my creative side been encouraged at school, my life would have taken a different path, and I possibly would have not grown into a frustrated adult, who is now doing something about it…..better late than never! So some of what Sir Ken say’s is correct, and some of you who disagree are also correct, we all have our own thoughts and ideas…..oh, being creative!
Three great educationalists of the Past:
Socrates (Athens, Greece, in 470 BCE) privileged:
higher-order thinking through questioning and dialogue
intrinsic thinking and to look inwardly to find answers.
Plato (427 BCE)
constant questioning and examination of issues.
Aristotle (384 BCE)
knowledge is fundamentally empirical.
Lev Vygotsky (1896) believed in:
the importance of a person’s social environment. The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) simply put, is the difference between what an individual can do on his or her own, and what he or she can do with assistance or guidance from a more knowledgeable other.
At the center of this interesting debate is the child/student who I believed comes to the world with `pre-disposed` natural potentials to achieve greatness. The on-going reflection is which environment would suit the child best? Researchers, educators, thinkers on this blog are healthily confronting, examining ideas generated by each other and I am joining in with one question. The digital tool and information technology is shaping new sets of aesthetics values in most aspect of the child`s life and world now. Even though the notion and role of parenthood has become intensively debated, the classic function parents are still real and have not yet become `virtual` to the child`s world. Within such landscape of universal changes it is understandable that we question what`s the best way to equip the child for life? I am, at the moment, investigating to what extent any theories, approaches and practices in education value the `human child` or rather the `potential adult` needed on the job market within a particular system? I adhere to an approach that supports the development every child`s natural `pre-dispositions` whereby he/she is offered experiential learning, opportunities to reflect critically upon experiences and knowledge as they come along the `learning path` designed for him/her, with an on-going and timely evaluation of progress and performance.
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I enjoy a nice debate as much as the next woman, but I must say the counter-argument against Sir Ken’s ideas is a bit like being tossed from your Nipa Hut in a hurricane…did you just grab the flotsam and jetsom that floated by? The Shakespeare argument was the best laugh I have had in a long while..Sir Ken is a big idea guy, agreed, but having the school district data-shackles put on my feet in the classroom gave me the emotional vacuum Ken filled that the data purists do not…some human elements remain mysterious, innate talents and what enables creativity in people is hard to measure…..
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Reblogged this on Civitas / Speel Je Mee and commented:
Er kan nier genoeg gewaarschuwd worden voor deze kwakzalver. Er zijn steeds weer naïeve volgelingen die zwijmelen bij zijn ideeën
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Wonderful article. There are more than a few of us who don’t drink the Robinson Kool Aid without reservation, although it seems as if many do.
I just back-linked this post as Related Content to “RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms INDEED: Clever but seriously flawed” (So what’s my beef with Sir Ken Robinson???) on ADD . . . and-So-Much-MORE (Evergreen blog, so I update links and content from time to time).
Please take a moment to go take a look, and feel free to engage in dialogue with any of my posts you find “related” to what YOU do, whether you agree, disagree, or have points to add.
(Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
– ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
“It takes a village to educate a world!”
I get so tired of defending my PROFESSION. I work 60+ hours every week of the year to plan creative lessons and engage students. I work in a building full of many teachers that do the same. It seems everyone has an opinion about how to change education, from pompous, doctorate scholars to the every day parent. Everyone is an expert. Has anyone thought to ask the teachers?
That’s what makes Sir Ken Robinson so interesting he is Professor who has a lot of knowledge on the topic of education.
“Profoundly spectacularly wrong.” Really?
To receive a diploma from the American educational system today one must display a propensity to complete low-grade clerical work, preferably with enthusiasm.
Robinson holds the distinction of having the most watched TED talk in its history.
Thank you for making him that much more popular. Your description of his work is accurate and succinct. Your counter perspective that Robinson disparages content-based subjects misses the mark. He clearly supports science and math. But people do not call on him to whip the dead horse. Childrens’ spirit and desire to learn is killed by state-level mandates like Common Core.
I recommend listening to Noam Chomsky who lays out the political reality of what is happening to our system in this country.
You are espousing more of what we have done wrong for years.
¨Being told by a non-teacher with a PhD in education how to teach is a bit like being told by a virgin how to get laid.’ Whoever wrote this sentence is a complete idiot. Non-teachers may have a clearer idea of what is REALLY needed in the classroom. But the system does not want to listen, they prefer to keep the status quo about education.
¨We don’t dedicate so much time to dancing and drawing because they don’t disempower you so much if you can’t do them¨ On this unlucky quote I can only say that if we devoted more time to other aspects of education other would be the outcomes… besides who is this person to state how much disempowerment can be implied in not dancing or drawing. This is simply short-minded because the disempowerment comes from the label education puts to this disciplines, disregarding what students may feel about them.
Interestingly, having derided Sir Ken Robinson and stating categorically that he’s wrong (a somewhat arrogant stance I fear) I have no idea who has written this blog nor their credentials. You slate him for having a Phd and not teaching in mainstream education but as far as I know this could have been written by an NQT or draconian head teacher clininging on to an outdated past. I have taught for ten years and I’ve quit because schools in the uk are a farce. I taught Spanish, film, animation, drama, media and more. I ran creative projects that inspired and motivated students far more than their regular lessons and despite drama being marginalised I was bemused to discover the school instructing all staff to follow the TEEP framework which is essentially most of the skill set found in drama. Kids are taught to test. Schools focus on results and millions of children are being told from day one they are failures because they struggle in the traditional academic systems. With regards to drama not being as important as literacy – well I’m afraid to say drama IS literacy. And for the record, people spout off about Public schools and the privileged rich kids but guess what? Go to any public school in the country and see for yourself how important music and drama are – they form the basis to the students enrichment, creativity and development and they are treated with the same kudos as English, maths and science. Your blog is naive and sensationalist twaddle and to be honest was more amusing (in a ‘you’re totally misguided’ sort of way) than one of Sir Ken Robinsons witty anecdotes.
Totally agree with you about Drama being at the heart of Literacy. I use Drama at the heart of all I do in my Primary School. I use it to enhance Literacy, RME, Social Studies, Emotional Literacy even Science and Maths.
I’ve looked at both sides of the arguments put, and I’m with Sir Ken. You don’t have to be a bricklayer to make the ideal brick, and the argument that Sir Ken hasn’t taught in a classroom overlooks the fact that he spent a long time in them as a victim (longer than most of his critics). Victims know better than the critics he seems to have brought out of the woodwork. Sir Ken is approaching the problem from a multi-dimensional perspective, and that is the solution to the abject failure of education as we know it. I think Sir Ken’s critics should take a cold shower and look more closely at what he’s saying. I rely on my inbuilt, shockproof, crap detector (Hemingway) to see through the smoke of clashes like these, and Sir Ken wins hands down. I’m hoping desperately that his ideas will win in the same way.
For several years I’ve been beating up on Robinson myself, for example, in “23: The Creativity Question.”
But never did I attempt or even contemplate such a grand and cosmic slap down as the writer has achieved here. Congratulations.
Cosmic slapdown? How dreadfully Postmodern.
My earlier comments included:
“Attacking each other, arguing among ourselves, and trying to discredit each other are actions that are distracting us from the real challenge we face. We have not got education right but we have all got ideas how to make it right. I do not believe one side has all the answers and is right about every aspect and so the only intelligent and logical way forward is to start with an open mind and be prepared to listen and learn from each other. This “he said, she said” approach is way below the level those truly interested in education should be thinking at.”
I would hope that the author of this article, having stirred up so much opinion, “evidence” and reports of experience, could provide a balanced summary of the comments. Filter out the noise. Mining the comments may just helps us move a little further forward and dismiss some of the hearsay, false or misrepresented statistics, academic rhetoric and other flag waving that is aimed at scoring points over the other side rather than establishing some truths about education.
For me there is a question I think we all need to ask ourselves before we decide what education is failing to do or doing wrong. Whichever answer you give will determine the values you place on education. The question, and please note the careful choice of words:
Do we want a knowledge based education system or one that is learning focused?
Which one do you believe is the way forward?
The dichotomy you describe is a wrong one, imho. For the way forward both is needed. You can’t be creative without knowledge, you can’t learn without knowledge, still you can’t know everything by definition so you need to learn too.
‘Can’t know anything by definition.’ – What bollocks, Pedro! You Modernists and Postmodernists make me puke, waffling on about stuff that’s clearly out of your court. Read Jung, Fromm, Laing and all the rest who know: we have a conscience and intuition, rooted in our subconscious minds and accessible by the conscious mind. We know everything there is to know. We’re Gnostics who got psychically raped as children, and made not agnostic but buggered mentally. That’s what Sir Ken is talking about–the love we have of crippling our young mentally and psychically. The process was designed to add value to third rate ‘teachers’ that they have no right to. The very word ‘educate’ (from the Latin) means to draw out, not thrust in. We all know what the difference is between right and wrong. If wrong has become the norm ethically today, it’s just more proof that the criticisms of Ken’s approach are self-serving rationales by ignorant axe-grinders. We’re convinced by now we don’t know and have to be ‘taught’. What utter BOLLOCKS, Pedro!. If we got rid of the knowledge industry tomorrow there might be some hope for us to become human again instead of the zombies and idiots our education system has been producing for 150 years.
Mass education is a flop. Read John Gatto (‘Dumbing Us Down’). A lot of smug idiots have been on a roll for so many decades and they fear that Ken’s ideas will take root and bring them all to book. Not too soon. ‘Can’t know anything by definition indeed. God, pass me my luger.
Keep breathing, please and a luger? Threatening people because they have a different opinion seems to me not really ‘educated’.
Oh and btw, my remark about not knowing by definition was not relating to constructivism, modernism or postmodernism, but to the mere fact that we aren’t born with all knowledge present in our brain.
Please bring “aptitude” into the debate. “Knowledge” amounts to nothing more than just a pile of facts.
Pedro – learning focused does not exclude a knowledge base. However a knowledge based education system can, and often does, preclude actual learning (understanding and application of knowledge). I believe we are hung up on knowledge based educations systems because they lend themselves to assessment and regulation so easily. It’s the easier of the two options I suggest. For example how do you measure creativity would be a question to start with. So yes you need both- that is why my vote is for a learning focused education system. Consider these articles: “Knowing and Learning – What is the difference?” http://wp.me/p2LphS-ba and “Learning Intelligence and the Challenge to Education” http://wp.me/p2LphS-jm
Creativity and athletic ability are not innate as Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell clearly proves, but what of it? I teach and the system punishes students for creating and taking chances. The more you act sing or write the better you are at these endeavors. Schools are designed to produce time stamped products. This is what is our problem.
For example Students have an almost unlimited library available to them now. Yet education has not come to grips with this shift.
Textbooks and the standard classroom may have their place, but they are always based on information that is about on average ten years out of date. Plus every ten years the info doubles.
How can you teach skills when everything is becoming intelligent. Tell me what your phone will look like in 5 years?
And lest you think the new discoveries are unimportant… let’s just list two which while earth shaking have not yet been assimilated by the scientific and medical communities:
1. arterial plaque and high blood pressure are oral bacterial in origin
2. Serotonin, implicated in many mental disorders and depression itself, is produced by bacteria in your gut. So psychologists and cardiologists should study microbiology .
But even better the general public should learn how to search and evaluate in our modern world. We are living in the Cyber-Renaissance and all of us should be learning differently.
Sir Ken rules, might it hurt us, but it’s right, we need to change our mindset from seek the highest score to adquire truly knowledge
I find his talks interesting. Just a parent point of view. I have a 10 and 8 year old. Common core is not about creativity. It is about testing and lots of it. Especially in math. It stresses my 10 year old out because he thinks he will never go to college. His math grades have fallen since common core has begun.
pragmatic- the opposite to idealistic. That might just be the problem of education at the moment
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Here you are talking about school, success etc..etc.. What is education, why to get educated, our purpose in life….is completely ignored in your writing. First listen to what Sir Ken Robinson said with an open heart and empty mind, forget ur views for a while while listening and then you will see where you missed the catch…..for imbibing a thing first learn to disown your past wrong ideas and views…. Good luck next time
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There’s a touch of irony to this article – teachers usually teach about subjects for which they have had no personal or practical experience themselves at any rate. Therefore to call Ken Robinson a ‘virgin’ is like the pot calling the kettle black.
The Education system in the West is heading in the wrong direction and has been for a long long time. Industralisation thanks to Modernity and ultimately Western Enlightenment is terribly flawed because underlying its emphasis on reason is that monstrous substantive dualism invented by Descartes. Education in the West therefore follows a structure and a flow reminescent of the factory floor so that through the division of labour, specialisation and ultimately economies of scales it manufactures human beings according to some predefined cookie-cut. Ken Robinson’s message (whether right or wrong) is paradigmatically correct. There is something fundamentally wrong with an underlying premise that somehow organic beings can be processed mechanically and be expected to come out ok. The shere number of dropouts reflects a dysfunction and therefore a glaring disconnect. Perhaps education in the West (especially if it is too accommodate itself in the wake of increasing globalisation) may well find respite if it stopped treating education from an ideaological perspective predicated upon economics and approached it from a more spiritual ‘heart-based’ one. Ken Robinson at least addresses the whole issue of education from a very strategic and non-linear level – something most every-day teachers are not able to do.
The essential complaint that creativity is stifled if not altogether destroyed by the present education system in the West exists because fundamentally the Cartesian mindset upon which Western Modernity rests and which Postmodernity continues to assert – by necessity separates, divides and abstracts. These are all the attributes of the cognitive intelligence called the discursive mind. And it has followed from this that the ‘heart’ and therefore the physiological means to knowing things outside of cognition is inherently contrary and meaningless to the overall scheme of things. The purpose of Art according to Integralist Stephen MacIntosh is too bring unity into what is otherwise a complex and disconnected world. The direction in any education system that brings the heart back centre stage (and not instead) of the sciences can only be good. Like the neuroscientist Gould (who Robinson quotes) we should aknowledge the importance and legitmacy of emotional intelligence.
There is something to be said about the inner human subjective consciousness as opposed to the obsession in the West for externals. The Arts and Creativity are inticrately related. Perhaps then as Robinson says – lets not anaesthetise our children with the present paradigm but through the Arts aestheticize them instead. There is something more profound and over-arching in what Robinson and others are presenting us with today and it merits consideration. The issues identified in Western Education are sympotamatic of a worldview that is badly out of balance and inherently disconnected not only within the domain of self and how we get to know things subjectively as individials (which by the way necessitates an interplay between the mind and the heart) but which at another level conflicts terribly with the obective domain of Nature.
Education and Learning are not something we can simply abstract and isolate on its own. The Cartesian method has traditionally treated it this way and then prescribes fixes in the same way Pharmaceutical companies and pschologists address ADHD in children. Learning and therefore Education are components of a greater whole. Unless criticisms against Robinson’s views can shed alternative light at a holistic and integrated level – then I am afraid – at least as far as I am concerned – an opinion and at worse a misdiagonised one.
There’s a touch of irony to this article – teachers usually teach about subjects for which they have had no personal or practical experience themselves at any rate. Therefore to call Ken Robinson a ‘virgin’ is like the pot calling the kettle black.
The Education system in the West is heading in the wrong direction and has been for a long long time. Industrialisation thanks to Modernity and ultimately Western Enlightenment is terribly flawed because underlying its emphasis on reason is that monstrous substantive dualism invented by Descartes. Education in the West therefore follows a structure and a flow reminiscent of the factory floor so that through the division of labour, specialisation and ultimately economies of scales it manufactures human beings according to some predefined cookie-cut. Ken Robinson’s message (whether right or wrong) is paradigmatic ally correct. There is something fundamentally wrong with an underlying premise that somehow organic beings can be processed mechanically and be expected to come out ok. The sheer number of drop-outs reflects a dysfunction and therefore a glaring disconnect. Perhaps education in the West (especially if it is too accommodate itself in the wake of increasing globalisation) may well find respite if it stopped treating education from an idealogical perspective predicated upon economics and approached it from a more spiritual ‘heart-based’ one. Ken Robinson at least addresses the whole issue of education from a very strategic and non-linear level – something most every-day teachers are not able to do.
The essential complaint that creativity is stifled if not altogether destroyed by the present education system in the West exists because fundamentally the Cartesian mindset upon which Western Modernity rests and which Post modernity continues to assert – by necessity separates, divides and abstracts. These are all the attributes of the cognitive intelligence called the discursive mind. And it has followed from this that the ‘heart’ and therefore the physiological means to knowing things outside of cognition is inherently contrary and meaningless to the overall scheme of things. The purpose of Art according to Integralist Stephen Macintosh is too bring unity into what is otherwise a complex and disconnected world. The direction in any education system that brings the heart back centre stage (and not instead) of the sciences can only be good. Like the neuroscientist Gould (who Robinson quotes) we should acknowledge the importance and legitimacy of emotional intelligence.
There is something to be said about the inner human subjective consciousness as opposed to the obsession in the West for externals. The Arts and Creativity are intricately related. Perhaps then as Robinson says – lets not anaesthetise our children with the present paradigm but through the Arts aestheticize them instead. There is something more profound and over-arching in what Robinson and others are presenting us with today and it merits consideration. The issues identified in Western Education are symptomatic of a worldview that is badly out of balance and inherently disconnected not only within the domain of self and how we get to know things subjectively as individuals (which by the way necessitates an interplay between the mind and the heart) but which at another level conflicts terribly with the objective domain of Nature.
Education and Learning are not something we can simply abstract and isolate on its own. The Cartesian method has traditionally treated it this way and then prescribes fixes in the same way Pharmaceutical companies and psychologists address ADHD in children. Learning and therefore Education are components of a greater whole. Unless criticisms against Robinson’s views can shed alternative light at a holistic and integrated level – then I am afraid – at least as far as I am concerned – they are simply opinions and at worse a misdiagnosed ones.
“Natural talent is a myth; it’s only dedicated, determined and disciplined practice that leads to great achievement.” I have never read such spectacular nonsense.
Natural talent is aptitude. It is measurable. And it is being ignored by everyone in this blog all the way up to the owners of this country who control our educational system.
So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down, and having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over–a weary, battered old brontosaurus–and became extinct.” ― Malcolm Muggeridge, Vintage Muggeridge: Religion and Society
You don’t read enough. Try reading a Mozart score and come back and see us.
Resisting the temptation to write a long, detailed riposte to the original post, and in response to recent posts, I merely add this – handed to parents at a primary school in London (UK) last week:
‘The new programme of study in English is knowledge-based, this means it’s focus is on knowing facts rather than developing skills and understanding. It is also characterised by an increased emphasis on the technical aspects of language and less on the creative aspects.’
There is value in ensuring that children master the basic educational skills in Primary school. This does not of course mean that creative expression should not be encouraged but it does mean that if the central literacy focus is on mastering literacy skills for example, pupils will be able to express their creativity more successfully in secondary school and subsequently as adults. This is true for all systems of education but particularly in the UK because of the complexity of our orthography.
That understanding is more important than knowledge is something I have long proposed myself.
However, when formulations along the lines of “creative aspects of language” (to paraphrase your hand-out) are used, I strongly suspect that the wrong form of creativity is meant. In fact, both among the comments here and in many other discussions, I fear that too many people see creatitivy and creative arts, fictional writing, painting, whatnot as equivalent. This is a major error and focuses on a creativity which should only be a secondary concern for schools, valuable mostly to the degree that it encourages the other type of creativity.
This other creativity, however, is a legitimate primary concern, namely the ability to create new knowledge, finding new ways of solving a problem, doing something “outside the box”, etc. (Where “new” is seen from the point of view of the individual, i.e. being able to do something other than what one has been taught or has read.) In my experience, activities like math (not to be confused with the mere arithmetic that dulls the senses of many school children) are better at fostering these abilities than “creative writing”.
Preserving and encouraging this form of creativity is far more important—and historically far rarer: Too many schools and teachers have discouraged or even punished those “trouble-makers” and “non-conformants” who presume to think for themselves. At the same time, many of them have been quite happy to see the students painting daisies.
As aside, I very strongly suspect that the true stand-outs with regard to the former type of creativity (i.e. the most important authors, painters, componists, …) were great mostly because of their strength with the latter type. Da Vinci is a prime example.