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Why Sir Ken Robinson is Right

I have long admired Sir Ken Robinson and his innovative take on our educational systems. I especially enjoy the RSA Animate illustration from his TED Talk “Changing Education Paradigms.” This speech was given in 2009, but we can still learn from the insights he shares. This is a quick 11-minute watch and it’s well worth the time. Here are some key ideas my team and I took from our latest viewing:

  • If you continue to do the same thing, you will continue to get the same results. Every country in the world is trying to meet the future by doing what they did in the past. This alienates millions of kids who don’t see any purpose in going to school.
  • The narrative is what motivates young people. Kids stay in school—or don’t—based on the story they are told. In Sir Ken’s generation, the story was that if you did well in school and went to college, you would get a good job. He says that today, “Our kids don’t believe that. And they’re right not to, by the way.
  • Our educational system divides people into two groups: academic and non-academic, smart people and non-smart people. Our current educational system was created for a different age, in the intellectual culture of the Enlightenment and the economic circumstances of the Industrial Revolution. “The consequences of that is that many brilliant people think they’re not.
  • Children are being over-medicated for ADHD. Interestingly, ADHD diagnoses have grown in parallel with standardized testing. “We’re getting our children through education by anaesthetizing them, by putting them to sleep. And I think we ought to be doing the exact opposite; we shouldn’t be putting them to sleep, we should be waking them up to what they have inside of themselves.
  • Divergent thinking is a skill essential to creativity. According to a study, 98% of kindergarten children scored at genius level for this ability. After five years in public education, these children were tested again and scored much lower. It was the same result when they were tested another five years later. Everyone starts off with this ability but it deteriorates over time, in Sir Ken’s opinion largely because of their educational experience.

And finally:

We have to think differently about human capacity. We have to get over this old conception of academic and non-academic, abstract, theoretical, vocational, and see it for what it is…a myth.

As a proponent of all educational pathways, I could not agree more. Thank you, Sir Ken Robinson. Let’s keep changing those paradigms!

About the Author
Mark C. Perna Mark C. Perna is a best-selling author and the founder of TFS in Cleveland, Ohio, a full-service strategic consulting firm whose mission is to share and support every client’s passion for making a difference.

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