Here’s what Ken Robinson has to say about education, creativity, talents, passion and fulfilment.
On everyone’s innate abilities:
We’re all born with immense, natural, creative abilities. Children demonstrate them all. We all feel them. But we feel they slip away from us as we get older. And I think it’s vitally important for personal and every other kind of reason that we focus on them and try to develop them.
How education is jeopardizing creativity:
“Many people in schools…are laboring under this sort of dead culture of continuous testing. And one of the results of it has been to reduce the curriculum, to narrow it.”
I’m not blaming teachers for it. I’m not blaming school principals for it. I’ve worked in education my whole life and I work a lot with teachers in schools and I know they’re as concerned about this as I am and everbody else is. I think it’s to do with this culture of standardization. There is a view that the way we improve education is to make it more and more standardized. Many people in schools — particularly in this country, I’d say — are laboring under this sort of dead culture of continuous testing. And one of the results of it has been to reduce the curriculum, to narrow it. So a lot of the things that people, who may be be in their 40s or 50s, will remember from school — things like band and orchestra, putting on plays, lots of interesting after school activities — a lot of those things are being pushed out by this culture of standardized testing. It’s all done with an honorable purpose, I think — the intention is to raise standards, but the irony is it’s really not doing it. And more and more kids are pulling out of school. There’s more and more teachers, I feel, demoralized by it. And I know parents are very concerned about it too.
“While Shanghai is trying to be like America, America is trying to be more like China.”
I’m not against testing. I’m not against any form of standardization, but what’s interesting to me is that some of the really high performing systems in the world — notably Finland, which is often spoken about — don’t have any standardized testing at all. They have a very broad curriculum. There are these international league tables run by an organization in Paris called the OECD, it’s called the Programme for International Student Assessment. They test for students achievement in math and reading and science. And the last round of tests a year or two ago showed that the top performing system is Shanghai…all kinds of anxieties in the American political circles that China was outperforming us. But what was interesting was that people in Shanghai take a different view of it; they say, “Well, we would expect to be good at these standardized tests. It’s what we do all the time. We drill our children in these things, so we’d expect to come out well. But the problem is that, for China, we know we have to help our children to become more creative, like they do in America.” And that seems to be a very interesting irony — while Shanghai is trying to be like America, America is trying to be more like China.
How STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fits into the picture:
“A great country like this depends not only on mathematicians and scientists and engineers but on people who can work in business, on artists, on people who work in the community. We depend on a huge range of talents and abilities.”
It’s not an argument against math or science — on the contrary, they’re desperately important. But they’re not enough. Somebody once put it: They’re necessary but not sufficient. A great country like this depends not only on mathematicians and scientists and engineers but on people who can work in business, on artists, on people who work in the community. We depend on a huge range of talents and abilities.
Actually, there’s a very interesting study done a while ago by a man called Vivek Wadhwa at Duke University about the educational backgrounds of people who are running large companies in Silicon Valley. He expected they’d be from engineering or math backgrounds. Actually, over 60 percent of them had backgrounds in the arts and humanities. What it really speaks to to me is life is not linear like that. It doesn’t depend only on math and science; it depends on these other things too…I speak to a lot of math teachers and science teachers who are just as concerned that this culture of standardization is squashing creativity out of their disciplines too.
Testing is damaging creativity-Ken Robinson also ponders the lack of creativity in school and its implications...