Just cracked Sir Ken Robinson’s 2001 book subtitled “Learning to be Creative” and I have a feeling it’s going to live up to the presentation he gave at TED earlier this year.
Many of the face to face conversations I’ve been having during my travels of late and the push that’s been occurring on the blog (which I think is a great thing, btw) have been challenging many of the assumptions that I’ve formed over the last five years. I think that’s why I’ve felt pulled to his message, because he asks us to look at things from a different perspective. Here’s a taste from the first few pages that make me want to read more:
One of the most fundamental problems is the very process that’s meant to develop our natural abilities–education…Education doesn’t just follow the natural grain of young people’s abilities; it sorts them through two different filters. The first is economic: education categorises people on implicit assumptions about the labour market. The second filter is intellectual: education sorts people according to a particular view of intelligence. The problem we face now is that the economic assumptions are no longer true and the intellectual filter screens out some of the most important intellectual abilities that children possess. There are drastic consequences for the development of creative abilities. This was always a problem, but now it’s getting critical.
There’s a bunch of good stuff to support the college isn’t necessarily necessary point of view, and there looks to be a great deal more regarding the deconstruction of the current educational system. I’ll reflect more on it as I go. Would love to hear from others who have read it.
technorati tags:ken_robinson, education, shifts, creativity, learning
Jasper Fox says
I was literally having this conversation five minutes ago over skype with my Aunt who lives in Australia. She was just about to travel to a meeting to help determine twelfth grade literature curriculum for New South Wales for the next couple of years. We laughed at the fact that just like here in the states, in Australia soon there will be no trades-people because students are told they must go to college to be happy, successful, etc. We agreed that this approach does damage to the educational process of students both in self-esteem and overall results as well as society as a whole. Reading the book â€˜Literacy with an attitudeâ€™-â€˜educating working-class children in their own self interestâ€™ by Patrick J. Finn helped me frame my approach as an educator to this topic.
Thatâ€™s where I wholeheartedly agree that an authentic approach based in technology and social networking comes in. By allowing young people to have control over their learning with these tools, whether through gaining insight by creating learning styles profiles (Dunn & Dunn model) through the web, or using web 2.0 strategies, they can decide where they want life to take them. That is instead of pushing some papers around on their desk to impress a teacher who might, as you mentioned, have different priorities in mind.
Gary Stager says
There will be no trade positions in Australia for a zillion economic, political and technological issues that have almost nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that school employees suggesting to students that they might wish to continue learning.
The high-stakes sorting, ranking and testing of students – not to mention the public funding of private schools with direct pipelines into scarce university positions rationed by the government has given Australia quite an interesting system of educational apartheid.
For readers unfamiliar with the Australian education system, here are a few pieces of data that will help you understand this discussion.
* The government funds independent and religious schools
* No extra university positions have been created in decades while the population steadily and the damands of the 21st century increase
* In one state 40% of secondary students go to private schools and they represent more than 75% of the students enrollled in university
* Australian society has a remarkably vocational view of education.
* ONE score based on a series of high-stakes examinations determines IF you may attend university and the government sets quotas for how many students may study in a particular discipline based on that one numerical score. Wanna guess where “teaching” ranks on the score hierarchy?
How good do you think that the government, any government, would be at predicting how many of X profession the society will need? How did they do predicting the impact of the web for example?
* There is a remarkable nostalgia for glorious trades that may never again exist.
I realize that the hard yakka mythology deep within the Aussie psyche, but many trade jobs are gone for good and lots of developing countries have a greater respect for higher education. I am all for young people following their hearts – even if they wish to leave school and earn a living s a tradesperson. However, that decision should come at the end of a rich and diverse educational career that produces the greatest range of possible options.
The US Labor Department says that the difference in lifetime income between a college graduate and a high school graduate is $1.4 (US) million. What is it in Australia?
It is the micromanagement of curriculum, high-stakes testing and government hubris in breeding future workers for a chaotic world they don’t begin to understand that dooms students.
Terry Elliott says
The most thorough “education” I ever received was ten years as a chimney sweep. I followed that with ten more years as a teacher. Equally profound. I am not sure what Gary means when he writes about the disappearance of trades. In the nearest large city near me, Louisville, apprenticeships in almost all trades are going begging. When I taught high school I spent time every week trying to convince students to explore the plumbing, electricity, carpentry, and pipe-fitting trades, not because I thought they couldn’t hack college, but because I believed that we all would be enriched by choosing that vocation.
I agree with Gary that the system “dooms” students, but I think what Will is advocating is a large, potentially more self-directed system(?) for learners. It is testament to the difficulty of this task that even the words slide off the tongue wrong. Education, student, system all sound more than a little off for what must sure come.
We should, however, be wary of what we want. I just finished reading and commenting on a short and provocative essay by Bruce Sterling in The New Scientist ( which extrapolates upon an even more problematic alternative to what we now have– a system in which we have the worst of both the current micromanaged, high stakes, commoditized systme and a new centrally controlled social net of RFID’s. We should be working toward a world where we are not all, as Sterling says, â€œtagged and tracked and ambient and pervasive and ubiquitous and geolocativeâ€.
Seems to me we need to be in the business of helping learners embrace good information. Let what that entails be decided by the learners. I will say that I have always tried to do this at every level of my teaching life including homeschooling my own children, but it is the work of a guerilla and I get damned weary. That is why the conversation here is so soul-savingly necessary. As my singer/songwriter acquaintance Mojo Nixon once said, “Just keep on!” Thanks to Will and Gary and Jasper and everyone else for helping me to keep on.
Ewan McIntosh says
I was lucky enough to see Sir Ken at SETT last year in Glasgow. He gets a hard time because his speech and idea is always presented more or less in the same way, but I think his way is a good one. My mother, an English teacher and one in a long line of teachers, told me sometimes that “school was overrated”. I think she has a point. Lots of school is wasted time, is listening to stuff that is not going to make us into individuals who are self-determined and able to find knowledge where required. It is teaching the skills and structures within which we can be creative that will lead to a competitive edge in the near future.
And, yes, I do dance every day 😉
Yes, school is overrated, but it will be some time before you can do without the college degree. Too many careers (CPA, law, medicine, education, etc.) require it for certification.
“I am not sure what Gary means when he writes about the disappearance of trades. In the nearest large city near me, Louisville, apprenticeships in almost all trades are going begging.”
I think the point that’s being made is not the the trades are disappearing, but the *tradespeople*.
Children are being pushed from Kindergarten to enter college; it is as if there is no choice available to them *but* to enter college. There’s no talk of being a chimney sweep, no talk of being a carpenter, no mention of being a muralist. These people are needed as much today as they were 100 years ago, yet we’re not educating our children for these trades. Hell, we’re not even *mentioning* them. It’s as if they don’t exist. And so… the trades “go begging” for apprentices who just aren’t remotely interested in becoming anything other than a sheepskin-chaser.
Nothing good can come of this. We’re creating a severely top-heavy system in which there are too many degree-holders who’ve never held a hammer, and not enough carpenters to build houses for them. (Substitute “carpenters” with any trade that you like.)
Standardized school provides menial education and produces menial, boring people. We need more room in our schools to be creative, to let the students explore, to stop segregating based merely on age… we simply need to do away with standardized school all together.