The Future of Education

One of my good friends ProfessorTom recently linked me to the following TED talk (if you don’t know about TED talks, you’re really missing out! They’re on YouTube and iTunes).

Below the link are a few of my thoughts about it:

Hopefully you can play the video, but the basic gist of Sir Ken Robinson’s (yes, he’s English!) talk is that our current school education system stifles creativity and doesn’t allow our children the freedom to not only fail, but explore their strengths – no matter where they might lie – and this is a complete travesty that needs reform if we are not to start pumping out xeroxes of our children.

There is quite a lot of truth to Robinson’s thought processes, and something that I agree with in principle. Each individual have their own strengths and weaknesses that provide us with the tools to become (hopefully) productive members of society: for example, I think my talents lie in the social sciences fields whereas my friend Professor Tom is far more talented in computer sciences fields and photography (even if he doesn’t think so!). It makes little sense, therefore, to push someone like me towards fields that can’t hold my interest nor something that I couldn’t reach success in: I’d be miserable, and as such would not be as productive as I could be. This leads to another point Robinson makes that I agree with.

Robinson posits that while a world-wide educational focus on mathematics and physical sciences (physics, chemistry, biology) is a positive, particularly in the current economic climate, why does it have to be at the expense of areas such as fine arts? Robinson highlights that fine arts have been increasingly squeezed out of school curricula as governments and education agencies increasingly emphasize the “solid” subjects of math and science. This is to the detriment of the students who have a natural inclination and ability with fine arts, which is not only neglected but crushed: Robinson uses the example of a girl who could not keep still or stay concentrated while in class and was continually moving; being a “disruptive” influence on her classmates. Taken to a counselor, there was a brief interview between counselor, parent and child and after a while the counselor asked the parent to speak with them outside, leaving the child alone with music playing. Looking back into the room after they left, they noticed the child tapping along to the beat and rhythm of the music. The child had a natural ability for music, which after it was discovered, led to a happier childhood and ultimately national success capped by award-winning performances later in life. This ability could have been squashed and eliminated in today’s climate where any child who is in anyway disruptive is immediately misdiagnosed with ADD or its derivatives and is medicated into a stupor that crushes any innate creative ability.

This creative ability is key to the success, survival and flourishing of the next generation. It is from this creative ability that so many of humankind’s advances have been born: the steam engine, the cotton gin, the transistor, the space shuttle to name but a few. Without this creativity human growth will be stunted and populations will be lackadaisical and boring. It’s something I agree with. While I stop short of Robinson’s call for creativity to be taught in schools, it is certainly something that I believe should be nurtured, challenged and promoted as much as possible. Giving equal time between all academic disciplines up to a point – sometime within the secondary education term – is a start, as is finding alternative teaching methods that encourage different learning techniques. Most importantly, stop “teaching to the test” and encourage broad and wide-ranging problem-solving that accepts all methods of getting to the same end goal. Taking as an example, Captain James T. Kirk’s decision to re-program a supposed “unwinable” situation in Federation training school to be successful. While people can, and have, discussed the ethics of cheating surrounding this episode, the principle stands: thinking outside of the box is what has driven the human race forward, and should therefore be encouraged as much as possible so that we avoid stagnation, the antithesis of progress.

My final suggestion would be to bring in the methods and techniques of some of the most successful business leaders to the classroom, challenging our students to find similar solutions to common problems to start the process of creativity and remove the culture of fear of failure which seems to drive most educational systems now. So many parents report that their children are stronger than we (meaning broader society) give them credit for that by allowing them to fail at an early age can only strengthen them and spark the motivation to do better, be stronger, act maturely and give hope to those generations that went before us that it wasn’t all for naught.

What are your thoughts?



Filed under Education, Technology

3 responses to “The Future of Education

  1. arigoldstein

    I find that socioeconomic adjustments over the course of the past thirty years, and how this has effected families has widened the divide between generations.
    in the conventional life in the Twentieth Century, American children had at least one parent at home where the kids played in neighborhoods that were known and familiar. Social outcasts were never allowed near kids or ousted or reformed.
    What went into the heads of these kids was controlled.
    Today the Internet has opened an entirely new resources to adults and children. It has somewhat torn every aspect of this conventional family design apart. There is very little guardian to monitor these kids because both parents work, both parents feel greater stress, and both parents are using unconventional drugs to have unhealthy and unnatural interactions with kids. Sometimes the kids are even forced into a drug program to alter their response to growing up and family turmoil.
    I want to blame many for this – congress, the NEA, older generations, banks, educational boards, a lack of math – maybe even a lack of fear brought about by the Cold War.
    Today there is very little monitoring of kids and how they spend their time. I believe fewer people are aware of the educational coursework that schools teach, there is less home tutoring and text books are no longer devices to train kids, but financial instruments that lack in the goal of a common well rounded education.
    There was once something called classic education – and even common “honor student” programs. Those advanced programs taught classic literature – classic being from the 1100’s and 1600’s. Classic historical lessons in World History. Today I fear that these classes are disappearing and classic training in all subjects is fading into a great abyss. Meaning we have lost touch with history, science, math, art, English literature, political science, etc.
    While there are probably great new aspects to today’s public education programs, and tools. I want to find a way to bring back some of this classic training. Maybe we need to be careful about what the fine print says in the loans we sign for education, and for housing, and realize the long term implications of turning ourselves in to the Bank Slaves?

  2. arigoldstein

    Reblogged this on Ari’s Blog and commented:
    Great post recounting the ideas from Sir Ken Robinson’s presentation at TED.

  3. This is a wonderful post! We should help children become capable of creating and not just repeating or memorizing.

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