Sir Ken Robinson’s website tells us he’s a “World Renowned Expert on Innovation and Creativity”. His focus today is on education and creativity.
If you tell people you work in education, they run away rather than having to talk to you. But ask people about their own education, and they’ll talk your ear off. Education has an enormous impact on us. And it’s a difficult task, because we’re preparing children for a future that we cannot possibly predict.
“Creativity today is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” Children are creative because they’re not afraid to make mistakes. They’re born creative, but we educate them out of it with systems that make them afraid of making mistakes.
Everywhere on earth, mathematics and languages are on top, humanities in the middle and arts on the bottom in the academic hierarchy. Within the arts, visual art and music are on top, dance is on the very bottom. “As children grow, we educate them from the waist up. And then just the head, with a focus on one side of it.” He argues that the purpose of public education is the reproduction of university professors, a species that “live in their heads.. and slightly to one side.”
All public education systems came into place to meet the needs of industrialism, coming into play in the 19th century. As a factory worker, you certainly don’t need to become a musician, and so it’s devalued throughout the educational process. But this is changing radically – suddenly “degrees aren’t worth anything.” Academic inflation – you now need an MA or a PhD, not a BA for a job – suggests that we need to radically rethink about our view of intelligence, valuing more than just academic intelligence.
(Ken is telling wonderful, dry jokes at a pace far to fast for me to transcribe. He’s the first speaker actually getting audible laughter downstairs in the – otherwise spookily quiet – “overflow lounge”.)
Telling us a story about a famous ballerina, Robinson tells us that the young woman, these days, would likely be diagnosed as having ADHD, as she didn’t concentrate in her classes. Taken to see an educational specialist, the psychologist was smart enough to leave the room, turn on the radio, and let the young girl dance. He told her parents, “Jilien isn’t sick – she’s a dancer”. She went on to a dance school, joined the Royal Ballet and has choreographed most of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musicals. Nowadays, we would give her medication and tell her to calm down.
Robinson’s goal is to help us recognize the intelligence children actually have and help them make something of it.