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Revolutionizing education

The time for revolution is now, Sir Ken Robinson said at FETC. Get takeaways from his keynote.

5 min read




The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. — Anais Nin

It’s time to take a risk. It’s time to revolutionize education, Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally recognized expert on creativity and innovation and author of several books including “The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education,” told attendees at FETC 2018.

“We are spending so much time reinforcing boundaries, maintaining systems which are constraining the growth of human talent, when if we were to invest in developing that talent, it would begin to flourish in a way that would enrich our communities and our children’s lives,” Robinson said.

The current system, he noted, promotes conformity, compliance and competition, but “we need one that promotes diversity, creativity and collaboration.”

The time for revolution is now

Robinson said there’s no need to wait for lawmakers to drive change.

“A lot of people make an assumption that the real way to get things done is to lobby politicians and get them to change their mind about something, or to wait for the government to do something, and I don’t think we should do that,” Robinson said.

“Cultural change is a complicated mixture of groundswell from the bottom combined with pressure on the top to change how things are done,” he added, noting that the groundswell already has begun.

“The more I travel around … the more I know that people are pushing back, saying, ‘We’re done with this. We need to do things different here now.’ And it’s not just teachers — it’s administrators, it’s parents and it’s kids.”

Don’t believe the resources myth

The resources needed to revolutionize education are at our disposal, Robinson said, explaining that what’s really needed is a reframing of those resources.

In 2013, according to Robinson, testing and educational support in the US was a $16 billion business. “Can you imagine what we could do in America to improve public education with an extra $16 billion a year?”

“Now, to get to that extraordinary number,” he said, “you have to look at not just testing, but all the prep work that goes into it — all the people involved in it — and look at how much your own states have been spending on those activities and how much public money is being diverted to pay for tests, administer tests, sort tests and make sense of the conclusions of the tests.”

We need to reframe extant financial resources, but we have other resources at our disposal as well, Robinson said.

“Kids have boundless resources, boundless energy, boundless creativity, and not just in elementary school,” he noted. “And so do teachers. The problem is that the system has been created to keep these things separate and discrete.”

“There are many hundreds of schools — and whole school districts — that get this to be the case,” and they are working to make changes, Robinson noted, sharing three examples:

Envisioning the future

What’s the purpose of education? Robinson shared this future-looking vision:

“All of us live in two worlds, not one.” he explained. “There’s a world that exists whether or not you exist. It’s the world that was there before you were born, the world you came into, the world of other people, the history of events and circumstances. Part of the role of education is help[ing] people adjust, understand and relate to that world.”

“There’s another world that exists only because you exist,” Robinson continued. “It’s the world that came into being when you did, and it’s the world that will be gone when you are gone. It’s the world of your private consciousness.” It is here Robinson sees new opportunities for education.

“One of the problems with schools is that we ignore the interior life of our children. It’s why […] so many children these days are self harming [and] why kids are taking so many steps to distance themselves from the world around them. This isn’t being caused by schools, but it’s a problem that schools have to contend with,” he said.

“It’s why we need a curriculum that’s not just about academic work, but one that’s about social connection, collaboration and emotions and feelings.”

Melissa Greenwood is the education content director at SmartBrief.


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