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Rethinking Education: Sir Ken Robinson at TED 2006

Posted on February 29, 2008

I remember when I first figured out that schools educated students to be workers rather than creative thinkers. It was a hard pill to swallow but it was the truth. In school, as in the workplace, we stigmatize mistakes. This causes fear amongst students and workers and this fear is the cause of their inability to take risks and strive for innovation. As Sir Ken says, “You can’t do anything new if you are afraid of being wrong.”

Another thing I began to realize at roughly the same time was that academic inflation has slowly been creeping up on us. Jobs that used to take a high school degree in the 50s took a undergraduate degree in the 70s and now take a masters or a PhD. The question is: do the jobs really require that much more education or have we simply let the education system get out of whack?

What always confused me in high school was the choice I was forced to make between music (the arts) and sports. I absolutely loved (and still love) playing the drums. It is one of my true passions and I will do it until the day I die. That said, I also like to stay in shape and I love baseball. So, naturally I played in the marching band (hahaha - get your laughs out now) and I also wanted to play baseball but the coach of the baseball team told me I couldn’t do both. I just remember wondering why that was the case.

Being a student of history the Greeks came to mind. The Greeks valued a healthy combination of the arts, athletics and academics and they were one of the greatest societies the world has ever seen. Why, then, do we only allow students to choose two of the three things that make education and learning complete?

On top of all that why do we also value math and science higher than the arts? Being a guy who loves both science and the arts I just don’t see the rational for making one better than the other or in forcing kids who are very good musically into the sciences or into business so “they can get a job.”

Just yesterday I was given some hope that things are changing though. Howard Tullman was nice enough to show me around Flashpoint Academy, his new digital arts and sciences school in downtown Chicago. This place was awesome and certainly a haven for the creative folks behind video games, movies, sound/music, etc. What stuck in my mind, though, was one of Howard’s comments to me which was basically:

These kids are not at all lazy. They just don’t fit the mold of the traditional education system. When they get here they work hard and excel and become the best at what they do.

It is good to know there are outlets for folks who don’t fit the traditional academic mold which, as Sir Ken describes it in his TED talk, is a system where we are all trained to be university professors and that profs should be held up as the highest form of intelligence. Sir Ken follows that by saying that profs should simply be looked at as another form a life not better or worse than anyone else.

Now that I have stood on my soapbox for a bit I will turn it over to Sir Ken Robinson. Please take twenty minutes to watch his talk. I think you’ll truly be inspired.


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  1. […] Olson over at Olson’s Observations, posts eloquently about this subject, and points out, “Being a student of history the Greeks came to mind. The […]