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Schools kill creativity
by Linda Lane
2009-01-19 08:54:57
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There is this speaker, Sir Ken Robinson, who spoke at the TED conference in 2006, and I was so overcome with emotion I nearly cried listening to his videostream. Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity ... and there are things we can do about that...

He says: "Intelligence: first is diverse, secondly it is dynamic/interactive and thirdly it is distinct."

Here's my favorite story of Dr. Robinson from the TED conference transcript:

"And eh, anyway Julian and I had lunch together one day and I said, 'Julian how did you get to be a dancer?' And she said it was interesting; when she was at school she was really hopeless. And the school in the thirties wrote to her parents and said, 'we think Julian has a learning disorder.' She couldn't concentrate, she was fidgeting. I think now they'd say she had ADHD, wouldn't you? But this was the 1930's and ADHD hadn't been invented, you know, at this point, so it wasn't an available condition, you know. People weren't aware they could have that.

Anyway, she went to see this specialist in this oak panelled room and she was there with her mother and she was led and sat on this chair at the end. And she sat on her hands for twenty minutes while this man talked to her mother about all the problems she was having at school. And at the end of it (because she was disturbing people and her homework was always late and so on, a little kid of eight) In the end, the doctor went and sat next to Julian and said I've listened to all these things your mother has told me I need to speak to her privately so he said, 'Wait here, we'll be back. We won't be very long.' And they went and left her.

But as they went out of the room, he turned on the radio that was sitting on his desk, and when they got out of the room, he said to her mother, 'Just stand and watch her.' The minute they left the room she said she was on her feet moving to the music and they watched for a few minutes and he turned to her mother and said, 'You know, Mrs Lynn, Julian isn't sick she's a dancer. Take her to a dance school.' I said, 'What happened? She said, 'She did. I can't tell you how wonderful it was. We walked into this room and it was full of people like me; people who couldn't sit still. People who had to move to think.' They did ballet, they did tap, they did jazz, they did modern, they did contemporary.

She was eventually auditioned for the Royal Ballet School. She became a soloist. She had a wonderful career at the Royal Ballet. She eventually graduated from the Royal Ballet School and founded her own company; the Julian Lynn Dance Company, met Andrew Lloyd Weber. She has been responsible for some of the most successful musical theatre productions in history. She has given pleasure to millions and she's a multi-millionaire. Somebody else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down."

Dr. Sir Ken Robinson gained his Ph.D. in 1981 from the University of London for research into drama and theatre in education. His first book, Learning Through Drama, was the result of a three year national development project for the Schools Council, Heinemann 1977. He was principal author of The Arts in Schools: Principles, Practice and Provision, the report of a national inquiry 1982 Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. This is now established as a key text on arts and education in Britain and internationally. He was editor of The Arts and Higher Education, 1984 Gulbenkian and the Leverhulme Trust, and principal writer for the Department of Education and Science of The Arts in Further Education published in 1986.

He was author of Arts Education in Europe, an international study for the Council of Europe of provision for creative and cultural education in 22 European countries. He completed consultancy reports for the European Commission on the socio-economic importance of the arts to the development of the European Union. Facing the Future: the Arts and Education in Hong Kong, a report on the training of professional artists and on arts education in schools for the Hong Kong Government.

In 1998, he was invited by the UK Government to establish and lead a national commission on creativity, education and the economy. The Commission brought together leading business people, scientists, artists and educators. His report, All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education (The Robinson Report) was published to huge acclaim.

He has published widely on creativity, innovation and culture. His 2001 book, Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative (Wiley-Capstone), was described by Director magazine as 'a truly mind opening analysis of why we don't get the best out of people at a time of punishing change.' John Cleese said: 'Ken Robinson writes brilliantly about the different ways in which creativity is undervalued and ignored in Western culture and especially in our educational systems.' His new book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, will be published worldwide in January 2009 by Penguin.

He is an advisor for a wide range of national and international bodies. These include:

The Education Commission of the States
The Girl Scouts of America
The Arts Council of England
The national inquiry on The Arts and Disabled People, chaired by Sir Richard Attenborough, and the Carnegie Council
Chief Examiner, Paul McCartney's Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts
Member of the UK Council for Dance Education and Training (CDET)
Board of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, Chairman of the Education Committee
Governor, Central School of Speech and Drama
Oklahoma Creativity Project
Advisory Council of the Independent Television Commission
Council for National Academic Awards
Hong Kong Council for Academic Accreditation
IBM Foundation
New York International Arts Festival
Royal Shakespeare Company
Other advisory and consultancy roles have included:
The Blue Man Group
The National Foundation for Educational Research
The British American Arts Association
The British Council
The Royal Court Theatre
The Young Vic
The South Bank Centre
The Design Council
The Royal Academy
The National Theatre
The Royal Ballet

Notable books authored by Ken Robinson include: Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative (Wiley & Sons) and The Arts In Schools (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation)

Because he is a great creative speaker some may dismiss his work as 'infotainment' but it does not dismiss his ideas or ideals, nor his credentials. He is speaking about what I experienced from elementary school, junior high, high school through to the University of Washington, what needs to change in education...

I think Ken will be speaking at this year's 2009 TED conference.

For more:

Creatively Speaking, Part One: Sir Ken Robinson on the Power of the Imaginative Mind

Sir Ken Robinson's Wikipedia page

Sir Ken Robinson's speech at the 2006 TED conference

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Emanuel Paparella2009-01-19 22:34:17
Good insightful article, Linda. It brought me back to my readings in the 70s of Ivan Illich "De-schooling of Society." I couldn't agree more. Until we find a way beyond mere schooling to real knowledge and education the blessings of schooling will be mixed one and often harmful to children.

Jack2009-01-21 01:20:57

Would not we be better instead of being teachers, designator ourselves as "facilitators"? That is what I referred to myself as, while teaching in public schools. I am facilitating their learning. The teaching is done by the students. Do you see my point? Abstract reasoning and critical thinking skills seem to have been replaced by "concrete" facts. At present, it is not quite Classical Conditioning, but close to rote memorization [is like being assimilated by the Borg on Star Trek, Next Gen.?]

Cliche or not, I still feel that students don't care how much you know....until they know how much you care.

LL2009-01-22 09:02:12
thank you for your comments Dr. Paparella and Jack. That's true - personally I always tried harder when I believed someone gave a hoot.

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