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Sir Ken Robinson Claims Diversity in Education is Necessary

In this TED Talk, Sir Ken Robinson explains the underlying theories from his book The Element. He dispels the misinterpretation that his work is about creativity, clarifying that instead diversity in education is its main focus.

Confusion about Robinson’s intended message in The Element seems to come from statements he makes about the direct link between passion and creative work. He outlines the need for educators to encourage children to pursue work that makes them feel fulfilled, asserting “It’s not enough to be good at something, it’s about finding the thing that resonates with you fully.”

Though, I wonder if this notion is a bit idealistic. While, I agree children, even at a very young age, should have the opportunity to make decisions about what they learn, I am not certain I fully agree with some of the points Robinson makes during his Ted talk. His underlying While having a job that makes you happy is a Being good at something is not a good enough reason to do it.

The predominant theme throughout the talk is that academic systems are not equipped to handle more than one type of intelligence. He outlines the need for educators to encourage children to pursue work that they are passionate about, or resonate with the most.

Fundamentally, it seems that Robinson is asking for a drastic change, not only in the way educators measure types of intelligence, but for an expansion of the concept of human possibility.

For further reading about innovative studies exploring intelligence, I highly recommend reading work by Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman. Here is a link to an article he wrote for The Huffington Post about IQ and highly gifted individuals titled The Mind of the Prodigy. Or, if you are feeling ambitious, here is a link to his book The Cambridge Handbook of Intelligence, where he explores different types of intelligence, including how it relates to the cognitive unconscious and his Dual-Process theory that includes research on psychometric intelligence.

4 comments to Sir Ken Robinson Claims Diversity in Education is Necessary

  • William Lindmeier

    This seems like a monumental challenge, and I agree that it’s a little idealistic. While, in theory, it would be amazing to cater to each child’s individual needs, desires, learning abilities and skills, there just isn’t enough time and resources to achieve it, so we must find a middle ground. Something that may be more achievable is to instill the value in the kids that they each have a different set of skills and role to play, an it’s up to them to find that path. As teachers, we might observe and react to how they interpret that mission, while giving them a baseline level of skills.

    I also don’t necessarily think we should always cater to every want of a child. It can be valuable to expose them to challenges and processes they’re not necessarily “equipped” for. That can be valuable in its own right.

  • Erin Smith

    I recently learned about a school in New Orleans called NOCCA, that’s been running for nearly 40 years. Their system pairs students with mentors and demands focused, dedicated work in a particular artistic field. The students are responsible for managing their time, and for participating in group critiques. While the school has an impressive number of famous alumni, and 90-95% of their students go on to college, the thing I found most interesting is that many of their students do not plan on communicating their artistic focus into a career. Those students that don’t plan on becoming professional dancers, or musicians feel that the skills they’re learning at NOCCA are valuable and applicable in other fields. These students learn how to focus on a project that is meaningful to them, how to deal with failure and criticism, and how to vocalize and sell their intention to an audience. I think this is the most important element coming out of this school and the kind of education that Robinson is talking about. I agree that teaching a student how to paint should not be a stand-in for teaching multiplication, and that some necessary parts of education may not be a student’s first choice, but I completely agree that for more students across the board to find success, there needs to be a way to combine required curriculum with passion and individual pursuit.

    I found this quote to be extremely powerful. I want to paint this on a banner somewhere.
    “Most of our students would do fine if they were stuck in a regular school. They’d get decent grades. They’d probably even go to some kind of college. But we shouldn’t be satisfied with that. We should insist that they live up to their potential. Because it’s not enough to be good when you can be great.” (Wedberg – CEO of NOCCA)

  • John Capogna

    My mother is a middle school teacher, and while she entered the business (it really is a business) with wholehearted intentions, she has lately been worn down and put off by the bureaucracy. I’m told that it’s not about teaching students anymore, it’s about adhering to standards that may or may not work and “getting good numbers”. The educational system is modeled around incentive for students that perform well on standardized tests that aren’t actually testing student’s aptitude, but rather their ability to regurgitate information and perform tasks a certain way. School have set standards that don’t work for all. Some students are visual learners, some learn by doing, etc.

    It’s refreshing to hear about schools that are encouraging students to become independent thinkers and problem solvers, to rely on their own work ethics and learn concepts in any number of ways unique to the learner. The sooner students can learn how to learn, the sooner they can go off into the world to make meaningful contributions to society.

  • Nancy

    All great questions and observations. Almost all kids come to school in kindergarten enthusiastic about going to school.. then what happens? There are 1000’s examples of good schools, great teachers.. but hardly any great school systems. I’d almost say none.
    when I was working in school reform ( and thinking about technology’s role) a great teacher told me this : Most of the tech I see is trying to get past me and go right to the students.I don’t need tech to help me teach, I need tech to do the stuff I don’t want to do that takes me away from teaching. Time is all I need.The administrivia” I decided then that my goal would be to take an analgesic approach to design, i.e. to relieve teachers’ pain.
    Trouble is as John alludes to the fervor for testing has taken over and it has burdened the creative teacher.
    Still, what do you do about the kids in the worst schools? Maybe that’s where experimentation should take place.
    I hope you all will tackle this problem and not leave it to others.