5 Things I Learned From Ken Robinson

By | June 25, 2022

Education expert Sir Ken Robinson is more than a New York Times bestselling author. He is a dynamic public speaker and a leader in developing creativity and innovation. As Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Warwick in the UK, he has received honorary doctorates from five different universities and numerous awards. Throughout his prolific career, he has been a strong advocate for creativity and the arts in educational systems around the world.

After watching Ken Robinson’s talk at the prestigious TED conference in 2006, I couldn’t help but marvel at his astute perceptions of the education system of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. What exactly did I take away from his speech? The following five points sum up, as Robinson puts it, “Our schools are killing our children’s creativity.”

1. We are all naturally creative beings:

The key to unleashing creativity, as Ken Robinson puts it, is accepting the fact that sometimes we, as thinkers and innovators, are wrong. Unfortunately, most adults are suffocated by the fear of being wrong. This fear is drummed into us from a young age and accompanies us into adulthood. Preschoolers don’t share this concern and therefore have no trouble exploring their creativity. When asked a question, young children eagerly provide a variety of creative responses. It’s only when they’re repeatedly told they’re wrong that they start being cautious about volunteering. Creative people accept failure as part of the innovation process. Thomas Edison tested his version of the lightbulb over 3000 times before he got it right, but he didn’t consider it a failure. When asked about it, he simply said that he hadn’t failed 3000 times, but found 3000 “ways it didn’t work”. That’s the kind of mindset you need to be successful in innovation—and in life, for that matter.

2. Intelligence is diverse, dynamic and distinctive:

We know that every individual demonstrates their intelligence in a unique way. A system that focuses on just one way, one way of doing things, underestimates those who don’t fit the mold. In his presentation, Ken Robinson brought up the story of dancer and choreographer Gillian Lynne, who struggled as a girl in the typical school system. She just couldn’t keep still. After discovering dance, she blossomed into a fabulous career as a dancer and choreographer. Today’s teachers and doctors would have screened her for ADHD and given her medication to calm her down! Her talent would never have been recognized. How sad that we stigmatize other forms of intelligence that don’t conform to the current norm. Too many talented children fall through the cracks because their unique gifts don’t fit into today’s education system. We need to expand the scope of how we teach our children so that they all reach their full potential!

3. We train for another time:

As public education evolved to meet the needs of the industrial revolution, subjects were prioritized as most useful for educating the workforce. The majority of jobs during the industrial revolution did not require creative thinking. Even today we have an education system with a primary focus on math, science and standardized testing. Left brain dominance is preferred. A system that tends to push creativity aside. Schools mostly teach children that there is only one answer to a question. When we are taught to believe that there is only one answer, we see the world as binary – right and wrong. When we start seeing the world that way, when a teacher asks a question and the students don’t know the answer, they won’t open their mouths. As a result, children tend to lose their willingness to try new things and develop their own ideas. We should encourage the opposite. We need to change our education system to meet the demands of the current job market where innovation is a valuable asset.

4. We must adopt a new system if our children are to thrive:

As Ken Robinson explained, our education system has “degraded our minds” for a commodity. We introduced this system in the past for a specific purpose, but it is outdated and needs an overhaul. The world of tomorrow, with its constantly growing population, increasing global instability and fragile environment, will need highly creative people. We need people who can predict emerging trends, propose solutions to emerging problems, and remain calm in a challenging, ever-changing world. The current system will only stifle the creativity and ingenuity of tomorrow’s leaders and innovators.

5. “Academic Inflation” and Global Competition:

More people are graduating around the world than ever before. In 30 years, a bachelor’s degree will be almost worthless. In order to have a career, you need a master’s or a doctorate. Already we are seeing college graduates returning home to live with mom and dad with no career prospects. So how do we ensure that our children stand out from the well-educated crowd? Inevitably, we must rethink our definition of intelligence if our children are to compete in this increasingly competitive world. They only have a chance if we encourage their creativity.

Transforming our education system is not only desirable, it is critical. The inclusion of all forms of intelligence will prepare us for an unpredictable, ever-changing future. Continuing down the same path with an outdated system means throwing away talent and undiscovered potential. Cultivating undiscovered potential and talent is one of my favorite things about working with young people. What a life changing gift to give to another human being. For my part, I’m not willing to let more and more children fail in life because they don’t fit the picture… You too?

Thanks to Lisa A.E. Phillips | #Learned #Ken #Robinson

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