Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity? (TED talk)

TED events are an exemplary display of human creativity. It’s also highlights how we really have no idea how the future is going to play out.

We all have a huge vested interest in education. It’s this education that will take us into the future. Children being educated right now will retire in 2065. Nobody has a clue what the world will look like in five years time, yet we’re meant to be educating these children for many more years out.

All kids have tremendous talents, and we squander them – pretty ruthlessly. Creativity is as important now, as is literacy. We should be treating it with the same status.

Kids are frightened of being wrong – they’ll take chances, even when they don’t know the answer. By the time kids become adults, they have learned to be frightened by being wrong.

Picasso said all children are born artists – the problem is to remain one as you grow up.

We don’t grow into creativity, rather we grow out of it – in fact, we are educated out of it.

Every education system around the world, oddly, has the same hierarchy. At the top are mathematics, and languages, then the humanities, at the bottom are the arts. There isn’t an education system on the planet which teaches dance every day to children, like we do with maths. Why not? We all have a body, we can all dance.

If you look at the output of our education system, from an alien perspective, you would think it’s sole purpose was to produce University Professors.

Something curious about Professors. They live in their heads. They see their bodies as simply a transport system for their brains. A way of getting their brains to meetings.

The whole education system revolves around academic ability. There were no systems in place before the 19th Century. They all came into being to meet the needs of the industrial revolution. The system steers you towards the requirements of those industrial needs. The result is educating people to where the industry needs to fill jobs.

Don’t do music, you won’t make it – don’t be an artist, you’ll never get a job doing it. Many highly brilliant and creative people end up doing boring jobs because they were taught to not be creative, and that they don’t have the ability to be creative.

But things are changing in the world. More people are being educated now than ever in history – suddenly we are at a stage where degrees are now worth nothing. We need to radically rethink our notion of intelligence. It’s dynamic, it’s interactive – the brain is not made of silos, the different parts of the brain interact.

Sir Ken tells an great story about a young girl who couldn’t sit still in school, constantly moving and fidgeting. Today she would be diagnosed with ADHD, but at the time that didn’t exist. They realised she was somebody who had to move to think, and she became a dancer after being moved to a performing arts school. The girl grew up to be Damn Gillian Lynne, one of the most famous ballerinas and choreographers in the world. She’s responsible for some of the biggest shows (Cats, Phantom of the Opera), made millions and been hugely successful. Yet today, somebody might have put her on medication and told her to calm down.

The education system has ‘mined’ our minds, stripping it of a particular commodity. And it won’t service us any more, we have to rethink the fundamental principles of how we do educate children.

A great quote by Jonas Salk, who said that if all insects in the world were to disappear, within 50 years all life on earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the earth, in 50 years all forms of life would flourish.

Human’s have a great capacity for creativity and imagination, and to avert some of the scenarios that we may see in the future, we have to nurture this special talent, and help our children develop those vital skills. Our task is to educate the whole person.

We may not see the future, but our children will – and our job is to help them make something of it.

This is a tremendous talk. Watch it.

(Part of TED a day for June)


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