Honoring every experience as an opportunity for learning and growth.
Sir Ken Robinson is perhaps one of the most engaging and outspoken individuals currently discussing education today. If you watch TED talks, you probably know that Mr. Robinson has the single most viewed TED talk of all time. As of this writing, it has generated over 16 million views. He has recently done another video (which may be even better than the first), which is what sparked me to write about him today.
You see before I was introduced to his talks, I read his book “The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything”. In it, he discusses a rather revolutionary approach to education that honors three major principals:
1) All humans are unique. Therefore, it makes sense that our education system should recognize and honor this fact, rather than trying to desperately to standardize everything.
2) Curiosity is the foundation of achievement. Without curiosity you get boredom, disengagement, and apathy. I can’t think of three more destructive things to learning than those.
3) Humans are inherently creative. Just look at what we have been able to accomplish in our relatively short time on this planet. Yet this creativity is not only unwelcome, but practically stigmatized in our public education system.
By embracing these three general principals, we can begin to create an education system that addresses the very real problems facing our society today, namely the atrocious dropout rate. We can recognize that some of the most talented, brilliant, and successful people in history did not perform well in school, and yet we can let whole generations languish in an institution that systematically tells them that they’re stupid, or that their skills and interests are worthless. Talk about counter-productive.
The problem is, as Robinson puts it, that there are as many different kinds of intelligence as there are people. While learning the basics are important to function in our society, there is a point where our natural diversity kicks in, and we need permission to find our own path. The key here is having the freedom to discover what our passion is! It’s not about top-down instruction, but finding and supporting a child’s natural curiosity. I have seen many “hyperactive” children spend HOURS intently focused on something, not because I told them to but because they were genuinely interested. Heck, my 6 year old nephew reads his child’s encyclopedia for fun every night.
We simply cannot move forward with a system that is modeled after our industries and factories. If you look at the similarities, you might be surprised just how alike they really are. What’s more is that our educational focus was determined by the growing needs of the very industries the school system was modeled after. Literacy is important, as is math and science, but what about everything else? Art, it has been argued, is part of what separates us from the monkeys, and yet no school prioritizes it. What about dance, or physical education? The sad truth is that our educational system has focused too much on the skills that make our children good factory workers, and not on the skills that make them well rounded individuals.
One last concept to consider when discussing education is the fact that creativity is not just a natural skill. Robert Florida in his book “Rise of the Creative Class” talks about how creativity is the single most vital skill a child can possess in today’s culture. Just look at the jobs that are offering the brightest future: technology! The truth of the matter is with the rate that technology is advancing, by the time a 5 year old today is graduating high school, they will be entering a job market we can’t even begin to predict today, let alone prepare them for. Creativity is going to be the lifeblood of our nation’s economic and cultural viability. So why is it our ‘education’ system manages to justify robbing our future generations of this vital asset? What do they get in return?
Something has to change.