Doing School Differently


Back to school. A different proposition in this first year of pandemic adjustments. Wearing masks. Different protocols for routines such as recess and lunch. Or maybe learning at home instead.

However it happens, there is general agreement that education is important. And most of us accept that the way we do education is the way it should be done. But not everyone agrees. Sir Ken Robinson, for one.

Today’s post is another in my series about imaginal cells—new ways of thinking that are waiting to become the full-blown systems of a more beautiful future. So far, I’ve introduced a revisioning of economics by Dr. Kate Raworth, whose model of doughnut economics ensures sufficiency for all without exceeding the limits of what the earth can provide. And then I brought you the story of how a huge international company transformed itself by changing the mindset of its leaders.

Back to Ken Robinson…

A New York Times bestselling author, Sir Ken Robinson is recognized as one of the world’s leading thinkers on creativity and innovation. Critical of the contemporary educational system that educates students to become good workers rather than creative thinkers, he advocated instead for a personal approach, one that treats kids as unique individuals with a diversity of talents.

He led national and international projects on creative and cultural education and, in 2003, was knighted for his contribution. His 2006 TED talk, Do Schools Kill Creativity?, has been  viewed more than 67 million times.

Ken Robinson challenges the premises and practices of today’s public education, a system that was developed in the mid-1800s to meet the needs of industrialization. As a result, education is based on output and yield, with emphasis on tests, scores, and everyone going to college to get a degree. As he says in the video which follows, schools are “places that have come to resemble, in many key aspects, the algorithms and standardization of factory life.”

Sir Ken makes the case that we should be focusing on culture rather than output—creating a climate in which learning takes place and children flourish—a mixed culture valuing sciences, arts, technology, individual talent, and the driving force of individual passion.

In May 2020, Sir Ken joined the Call to Unite, a 24-hour global live-stream event where he shared his thoughts on how we can seize the opportunity to transform how we educate our children, and how we approach our relationship with the world we live in. If the video doesn’t appear, watch it here.

The organizations he mentioned are Boundless and Hello Genius. He has authored five books. See them here.

His legacy…

Sir Ken Robinson died Aug 21, 2020, after a lifetime of work to bring forward a vision of doing school differently.  It is encapsulated in his closing statement on the video…

  • There is not any reason for schools to be the way they are.
  • We can reinvent school, we can revitalize learning, and we can reignite the creative compassion of our communities if we think differently instead of trying to go back to normal.
  • There is an opportunity to learn the lessons of this lockdown, to see beyond them, and to create a new sort of world and a new kind of normal.
  • It takes bravery, and imagination, and we have plenty of that in store.

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