3Di blog readers who have also taken a look around our 3Di website may have noticed we have huge regard for Sir Ken Robinson – a man who speaks and writes on education, creativity and human potential with wonderful clarity, wit and subtlety.
We have retained on our ‘News’ page an animation of Sir Ken talking about ‘Changing Education Paradigms‘ as a mark of respect for both the brilliance of his words and also the brilliance of the animation – which together sum up the need for an education revolution in the 21st Century.
We also have a link to ‘All Our Futures – Creativity, Culture and Education‘ – a major publication that Sir Ken was instrumental in producing some years ago. The foreword of this report says, amongst many others things –
“If we are to prepare successfully for the twenty-first century we will have to do more than just improve literacy and numeracy skills. We need a broad, flexible and motivating education that recognises the different talents of all children and delivers excellence for everyone.” (Quotation from the 1997 Education White Paper)
This report argues that a national strategy for creative and cultural education is essential to that process. We put the case for developing creative and cultural education; we consider what is involved; we look at current provision and assess the opportunities and obstacles; and we set out a national strategy.
By creative education we mean forms of education that develop young people’s capacities for original ideas and action: by cultural education we mean forms of education that enable them to engage positively with the growing complexity and diversity of social values and ways of life. We argue that there are important relationships between creative and cultural education, and significant implications for methods of teaching and assessment . . .
Our report is also written for a wider audience:
· for parents, who want education to offer the best opportunities for their children;
· for teachers and headteachers who see the potential range and vitality of young people’s abilities;
· for school governors, who want their schools to be alive with energy and achievement;
· for other organisations who see themselves as partners in the education of young people and who want to find better ways of engaging with them;
· for business and union leaders who recognise the need for new approaches to preparing young people for the changing nature of work.
Above all, our aim is to urge the need for a national strategy which engages the energies of all of these to provide the kind of education, in substance and in style, that all young people need now, and to enable them to face an uncertain and demanding future.
Of course we now understand that although copies of the ‘All Our Futures’ report were sent out to schools and local authorities the report was then simply forgotten about by the then government, since that government then proceeded to argue for a completely different vision of how education should develop in the 21st Century – a vision put forward by the ‘traditionalists’ who by then had hijacked the business of education and set about establishing academic targets, league tables and the ‘naming and shaming’ of schools that were deemed to be unsatisfactory or failing to reach test and exam targets. Take a bow David Blunkett, Chris Woodhead, Michael Barber, Andrew Adonis and all the others involved in that inglorious government. Please note that most of these people were simply ‘advisers’ on education, and were never elected to their positions of power and influence. So it goes.
The All Our Futures report goes on to say,
The business community wants education to give a much higher priority to promoting young people’s creative abilities; to developing teamwork, social skills and powers of communication.
New technologies are providing unprecedented access to ideas, information, people and organisations throughout the world, as well as to new modes of creativity, personal expression, cultural exchange and understanding.
Issues of creativity and of cultural development concern the whole of education. They are influenced by much more than the shape and content of the formal school curriculum.
These influences include methods of teaching; the ethos of schools, including the relationships between teachers and learners; and the national priorities that underpin the education service.
Our consultations suggest some tensions in current provision. Many of those who have contributed to our inquiry believe that current priorities and pressures in education inhibit the creative abilities of young people and of those who teach them. There is a particular concern about the place and status of the arts and humanities. There is also concern that science education is losing its vitality under current pressures.
Many schools are doing exciting and demanding work but often they see themselves doing this in spite, not because, of the existing climate.
This was true in 1999 – the year of the publication of “All Our Futures” – and it’s even more true now. England now has even more ground to make up – which is reflected in figures from UNESCO etc, as reported in our recent blogs, which show English pupils still sliding down the league tables of international comparisons for both wellbeing and attainment.
And the present government’s answer to all this? More of the same prescriptions that have brought us to this situation. Only bigger and better and harder and faster. Go even further back to the future, and to hell with the rights of children to a broad, balanced, creative, stimulating and enjoyable education.
The government’s appointment of a new chief inspector who is noted for his traditionalist views, his emphasis on academic attainment and his determination to get rid of those who disagree with his views or are deemed to be incompetent (or inept!) seems evidence enough of the current direction of travel.
Back to the words of Sir Ken:
In his introduction to Excellence in Schools (DfEE 1997), the Secretary of State for Education and Employment relates the Government’s aims for education to five priorities:
· the need to overcome economic and social disadvantages;
· the creation of greater fairness within the education system;
· the encouragement of aspiration;
· economic competitiveness;
· unlocking the potential of each individual.
[Didn’t we do well with those?]
The foundations of the present education system were laid at the end of the nineteenth century. They were designed to meet the needs of a world that was being transformed by industrialisation. We are publishing this report at the dawn of a new century. The challenges we face now are of the same magnitude, but they are of a different character. The task is not to do better now what we set out to do then: it is to rethink the purposes, methods and scale of education in our new circumstances. This report argues that no education system can be world-class without valuing and integrating creativity in teaching and learning, in the curriculum, in management and leadership and without linking this to promoting knowledge and understanding of cultural change and diversity. The arguments and proposals that follow are to help set a course for the next century while addressing the urgent demands of the present.
Professor Ken Robinson; Chairman
With hindsight, maybe it was a mistake to use words like “culture”, “methods” and “creativity” when what was really at issue was, and still is, pedagogy and the whole way we approach teaching and learning. Maybe it would have been better to state quite explicitly that what matters is that, in the age of the Internet and of mass communications, our pupils – especially the more ‘creative’ and the less ‘academic’ pupils – were becoming increasingly bored and frustrated with schools that were frankly boring and uncreative results factories which took no account of the real developmental & learning needs and interests of tech-savvy energetic young people.
Maybe the report should have spelled out very explicitly that our new understandings of the human brain and the need to develop not just the intellect but also the personal, social, emotional, physical, instinctual and spiritual intelligences were already causing governments and educationalists in other parts of the world to change and radically adapt their methods of teaching and learning. How many of our schools even address these other intelligences in their learning and teaching policies?
What was there to lose, as it it turns out, from a more direct and challenging assault on the existing educational paradigms? The report couldn’t have been more ignored anyway –
at least not by the government, its advisers and England’s educational establishment, which is the only one in the British Isles still clinging to SATs tests for eleven year olds.
But the point of this blog is not to criticise Sir Ken Robinson, who is now recognised worldwide as a true educational visionary as well as an inspirational thinker and communicator.
The point of this blog is to draw attention to another website we’ve stumbled across which features the work of Sir Ken, and his book The Element.
On this site there are three different ways of experiencing a colourful and absorbing overview of the ideas contained in The Element. Brilliant.
With a crackling wit and a deep humanity, (Ken Robinson) urges us to ignore the naysayers, bypass the crowd and find the place where our talents and desires intersect (Daniel Pink, Author Of A Whole New Mind )
A book that lightens and lifts the minds and hearts of all who read it (Susan Jeffers, Author Of Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway )
Happiness really is within your grasp (Guardian )
The Element gives you the feeling that all is possible if we dig deeply within ourselves, using our imaginations and curiosity (Vidal Sassoon )
The Element is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. It is here that people feel most themselves, inspired and able to achieve at their highest levels.
In this ground-breaking book, world renowned creativity expert Ken Robinson identifies a crisis in education and business: whether it’s a child bored in class, a disillusioned or misused employee or someone who feels frustrated but can’t quite explain why, too many people don’t realize what they are capable of achieving.
Through stories of people – like Vidal Sassoon, Ariana Huffington and Matt Groening – who have recognized their unique talents and been able to make a successful living doing what they love, Robinson argues that age and occupation are no barrier and explains how it is possible for each one of us to reach our element.
With a wry sense of humour, Ken Robinson inspires us, above all, to reconnect with our true self – it could just change everything.
Imagine what might happen if schools and universities enabled young people to become “inspired and able to achieve at their highest levels”, to find and connect with their true selves, instead of causing them to lose touch with their true selves. That really could be transformative.