“Teachers are the lifeblood of schools, but teaching is a creative profession. Great teachers mentor, stimulate, provoke, engage.” – Sir Ken Robinson, USA
One of the many questions we ask our heroes here at Daily Edventures is, “who inspires you?” And one name that we see frequently is Sir Ken Robinson – and for good reason. Not only is Robinson a funny, charming and engaging speaker, author and teacher; he simply “gets” people. And because he gets people, he also gets education: what works, what doesn’t, and how we can make it better.
In his recent TED video titled, “How to escape education’s death valley,” Robinson dives into the world of American education, specifically what No Child Left Behind (NCLB), with its focus on one-size-fits-all teaching and high-stakes testing, has created in our school system. “I knew that Americans got irony when I came across that legislation, ‘No Child Left Behind,'” says Robinson. “Because whoever came up with that title gets irony. Because it’s leaving millions of children behind.”
Robinson goes on to note that the dropout rate in America – 60 percent in some parts of the country, and 80 percent in many Native American communities – is killing our economy. “If we halve that number, one estimate is it would create a net gain to the US economy over 10 years of nearly a trillion dollars,” he adds. But one thing the dropout rates don’t account for is the millions of disengaged children sitting in our classrooms. Robinson contends – and I agree – that the money we spend in education is simply “going in the wrong direction.”
To change our dropout rate, Robinson argues that we must provide a broadly based “real” education, not simply focused on STEM, but also the arts, humanities and physical education. He bases this on “three principles that make human life flourish”:
- Human beings are naturally different and diverse: Education under NCLB is based on conformity, not diversity. “If you sit kids down hour after hour doing low-grade clerical work, don’t be surprised if they start to fidget. They are suffering from childhood,” he says.
- Curiosity: Light the spark of curiosity and children are natural learners. Curiosity is the engine of achievement. “Teachers are the lifeblood of schools, but teaching is a creative profession,” says Robinson. “Great teachers mentor, stimulate, provoke, engage. Education is about learning. The whole point of education is to get people to learn. The role of a teacher is to facilitate learning. Yet, the dominant culture has been about testing.”
- Human life is inherently creative: “One of the roles of education is to awaken creativity,” says Robinson. “Instead, we have a culture of regulation.”
As many of our interviewees here at Daily Edventures have said, it doesn’t have to be this way. And Robinson turns to an example we hear a lot for proof: Finland, and their broad-based approach to education – humanities, physical education, and the arts. “They individualize teaching and learning,” says Robinson. “They recognize that it’s students who are learning and the system has to engage them, their curiosity, their individuality and their creativity. That’s how you get them to learn.”
I hope you get as much out of this fantastic TED talk from the hero of so many of our heroes as I did. Let me know what you think @anthonysalcito. Enjoy!
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