29 Jun

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity

Education is personal, a statement I paraphrased from Ken Robinson in his entertaining and educating TED Talk:


Date Filmed: February 2006

Length: 19 Minutes, 29 Seconds

Total Views so far: 11,091,925 Views

One Sentence Summary:  “Education has become improperly specialized while not supporting the diversity with which the mind actually functions.”

This TED Talk is incredibly profound, and as it was originally released in 2006 it brings me great pain in wondering why some principles from it haven’t been placed into affect as of yet.

What do I mean by profound?  Robinson doesn’t finish his talk with a puzzling or deep message, rather it is clear from the very beginning.  “Creativity is as important as literacy, and it should be treated with the same status” is the direct quote, and the inference from this (or literal take I guess) is that the priorities of the education system are wrong.  This wasn’t directly a design flaw, rather it was both an evolution of how the ‘successful at education’ became educators and the general structure of how wealth is attained.

This post tonight is in high danger becoming incredibly long, as there are so many aspects surrounding the above that I’m uncertain where to begin.

Let’s start with the simple truths that he speaks of.  During development, aka being a kid, one quickly hears stories of who does what and how much they earn.  “There’s no poor doctors”, “Teachers aren’t paid enough”, “Do you want to be a janitor for the rest of your life?” all these kinds of phrases bounce around an immediate labeling occurs.  That there is a scale that accompanies each occupation, and that one’s occupation is determined entirely on what grades the student is receiving.

Now I admit that grades might be an indicator.  There are several indicators of an individuals possible development but that piece of paper is the one that is used today as a proof.

And in this regard, this is perfectly reasonable.  However, the beast that comes out of it is that the education and experience itself becomes a secondary goal.  What ends up the primary goal?

To get that damn piece of paper.

A person does not need to be well rounded, empathetic or creative to ‘test well’.  And to properly administer a test isn’t tailored to the individual, rather it is tailored so one can test multiple individuals at the same time.  I can dance if there’s music with a recognizable beat, but take that away and I’m looking like someone who is in the process of falling down.  If there is a tiny percentage of individuals (let’s say, .01%) that actually think BETTER with music on, then the current method of testing a group in close to silence puts them at a distinct disadvantage.  This disadvantage might mean a couple kids in each school, each year, are unknowingly penalized by the system and over decades this could mean hundreds or thousands of individuals who have grown up with the belief they can only achieve so much.

Now in the example Robinson brings up, Gillian Lynne, it wasn’t about a kid who needed to dance so they could add two plus two.  It was about a kid who was innately interested at something, and that if properly directed could do something with it.

More about Gillian Lynne can be found on her wiki page here:

I know I’m simply reiterating the same points he makes (hopefully from a slightly more detailed angle) but its just that I couldn’t agree more as I know that the system of education impacted my own development.

(And not to get into too much detail, in my early years I had a speech impediment (‘th’ was a sound I couldn’t make), I had trouble learning how to write and I needed my own unique class of ‘one’.  It would be years later that I was labelled ‘gifted’, which was also in my opinion, misleading of character)

What caught me off guard:

The first few steps Robinson makes while walking in seem forced.  I do not know if he was injured, making a joke of it or if it was simply an illusion of the camera.  Nonetheless, it caught my eye.  Based upon his consistent humor and style of humor, I’d imagine that this limp is real.  I’d also make a guess that it was something he had for an extended period of time only as humor makes a great distraction from other things.  (If it wasn’t the limp, then it would have been something else, maybe the stutter).  Speaking of which, he stutters a few sentences early on.  I bring it up because it distracted me, just like the cellphone ringing.

You’d think they’d have a PIxar based introduction that reminds people to turn their cellphones off.  I love those things.

Outside of all these very minor distractions, the very best surprises is the fact Robinson is so very funny and he tells jokes I haven’t heard before.

There is something that Robinson brings up which aren’t necessarily true, or I don’t immediately agree with.  For instance, saying degrees aren’t worth anything.  This isn’t entirely true.  For one, there are a ‘shopping cart’ of degrees a student can now select from, and many of these degrees are not exactly ‘real’.  It’s widely accepted that some degrees were designed in mind with ‘getting students’ and not actually pushing a philosophy of raising educational standards.  And although many people are indeed educated, it’s also said that 80% of jobs aren’t advertised, so finding immediate work in their initial specialty of study does not happen.

(I graduated to be an actuary but find today that I’d very much would rather do things that I pushed aside when younger simply because there wouldn’t work for it.  Y’know, like a ninja or dessert taster.  Ok, maybe not those two but you get the idea)

So what now?

This is the biggest question, for as nice it is to say the education system is wrong there isn’t a clear solution to how to make it right.  There’s a system of jobs, a hierarchy of multiple systems and lifetimes of expectations that need to be resorted out and reinvented before anything can really happen.

It is really quite possible that the children we are educating today might have to educate the next generation to make the necessary changes.

Except in their case, they’ll have the TED Talks to remind them.


– Updated every Friday

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Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Uncategorized



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