What can we learn from Sir Ken Robinson?
- by Carla Young and Danya Croft
Changing Education Paradigms, Sir Ken Robinson gives us insight as to why he believes our educational system is set up the way that it is. He reminds us of the Enlightenment Period and the Industrial Revolution when education was all about training children in subjects that would help them in future industrial businesses. During this time, the main foci of education was to prepare children to take over the economy and to maintain a sense of cultural identity while being a part of the cultural circle. The same might be said for education today, because there hasn't been a dramatic change in the years and years since the Industrial Revolution. In fact, the world has changed in so many ways that we should be shocked and ashamed at how slow the reformation in our educational system has been. Our children are living in a time when there is so much technological stimuli, yet we continue to force them to sit in a classroom where the teacher does the bulk of the talking while telling students to "sit down and be quiet."
Sir Robinson rightfully argues that education should be about more than a means to drill mathematics, language, and humanities into the heads of children; it should be based on the individualized learning process of the child. What is that child good at? Where do his/her talents originate? He believes that we should foster the creativity within each child rather than dismissing it because it doesn't coincide with the one-answer mindset that we have grown to accept. He once stated about education, "It should focus on awakening creativity through alternative didactic processes that put less emphasis on standardized testing and giving the responsibility for defining the course of education to individual schools and teachers." We agree that true intelligence comes from the ability to see more than one answer; he calls it divergent thinking. Does our current education system foster divergent thinking or do the standardized tests help prove that our true way of thinking is static and closed minded? We believe that Robinson is absolutely correct when he said that we need to change the way we view education. We need to understand that intelligence and academic intelligence are not mutually exclusive. Some children may have strengths in other areas such as music, art, drama, as well as street and social acuity. What does this mean for teachers? We need to get to know our students so that we may find the areas of their intelligence and allow them to blossom in ways that parallel with their talents as opposed to ways that cancel them out.
How to Escape Education’s Death Valley, Sir Ken Robinson raised many valid points about students today and how they interact in the classroom. He explains that he believes there are three main principles that make the population flourish. The first is that humans are different by nature. Therefore, the curriculum should be designed to meet the needs of all students and include an equal mixture of all subjects. Robinson explains the importance of the students being not only exposed to main subjects, such as Math and Sciences, but also the Arts and Physical Education. Although it is important for the students to learn these core subjects, not every student is going to be as receptive to the same subject. He explains that it has been proven that the Arts not only improve Math scores, but also motivate students in other areas that are usually not triggered by normal everyday methods in the classroom. Sir Ken Robinson stated that he did not agree with the thought believed today that there is an ADHD epidemic among students, but that instead students are spending so much time sitting in a desk, listening to lectures, and taking notes that they are losing focus and having trouble putting their energy into what they are learning. One major point made by Robinson was the flaws in the No Child Left Behind Legislation. Robinson explains the irony in the title in that it actually leaves millions of children behind. In America, 80% of children drop out of high school for various reasons. Some are not interested in what they are learning in the classroom and many fall so far behind, they tend to give up. With No Child Left Behind, these children who fall behind are still moved along to the next grade and eventually fall even more behind. Robinson explains the very narrow spectrum created to grade and test students on is realistically ineffective, because again, not every students is the same or learns the same as the next. Trying to grade every student or expect every student to learn by the same standard is creating stress and puts pressure on the students, which eventually distract from the actual learning itself.
The second principle is curiosity. Robinson believes that children are natural learners, and if you can spark a student’s curiosity, they will learn more independently. Robinson explains that teachers are the backbone for schools. It is a teacher’s job to take that natural instinct students have to want to learn and find what will keep their attention and their curiosity going. Once you get the student interested in what they are learning, they will keep wanting to learn more and can become more independent learners. Robinson explains, that teachers are not only there to relay information to students from a book, but it is also the duties of the teacher to mentor, stimulate, provoke, and engage. That is the difference between a teacher and a GREAT teacher. We really liked the statement Robinson made, “The whole point of education is to learn.” This statement really caught our attention and we believe it really hits the nail on the head. At the end of the day, all the lectures, all the notes, and all the homework assignments mean nothing if the students did not actually learn something. If the students are not learning something then it is because, “teachers are engaged in the task of teaching, but not actually fulfilling it.” He believes that testing has a role in the classroom, but should not be the default for grading the level students are at.
The third, and last principle, is creativity. Creativity has a hand in almost every task humans participate in everyday. Creativity is an important thing for teachers to not only bring into the classroom, but to also bring out of their students. However, in today’s education, we do not have any systems to spark and encourage student’s creativity. Instead, we have standardized tests that tell students where they should all be on the average scale. Robinson compares American schools to schools in Finland. He explains that in Finland and other places in the world, schools do not have a high dropout rate, because when a student falls behind or needs extra help, others pull together to help catch that student up to speed. They also have individualized learning plans in place. Students are not all taught by the same system. The are customized to appeal to the students’ curiosity, individuality, creativity, and to spark that natural instinct to want to learn more. This is also a contributing factor in the lower dropout rate. Sir Ken Robinson’s video was very eye opening and proposed many valid points we believe everyone should hear. Investing in our students’ future means doing our part as teachers to constantly strive to spark the creativity and curiosity in students to make them want to keep learning more. It also means having the support from our schools to provide us with the means to do so. Investing in the future of our students is an investment every school should make. These children are our future lawyers, doctors, governors, and teachers. It is our job to provide them with the tools and knowledge needed to succeed beyond the four walls of the classroom.
The Importance of Creativity, Sir Ken Robinson shares a very real depiction of how children are willing to try new things without fear of embarrassment or failure. Can you remember a time when you felt that sense of liberation? It was likely when you were a small child. However, as you got older, you had parents or teachers telling you that your dreams and imaginations are unrealistic and improbable. We are still doing this today. We are telling our children that they shouldn't color outside of the lines because that isn't the way they are supposed to do it. Well... who says? In restricting our children, we are squandering the precious creativity that will make our world a more fun and dynamic place. If it weren't for creativity, we would not have the comforts that we have grown to know and love. We wouldn't have thought of ways to travel 60 miles per hour, talk to someone 2,000 miles away, or perform astronomical equations in a matter of microseconds. We know that children have an extraordinary ability to learn and education is supposed to be the difference that makes our futures better, so perhaps we should change the way we perceive education. Perhaps we should stop educating the creativity out of our children and start encouraging their creativity to run rampant. Robinson described intelligence in three words: interactive, dynamic, and distinct. He said, "Many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they're not because the thing they were good at in school wasn't valued." He is absolutely right in that we have completely undervalued the importance of creativity and in doing so, left children with the feeling of inadequacy. So a final thought, how will you educate in your future classroom? Will you stifle the creativity out of your students or will you allow them to flourish in the ways they were meant to?