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Sir Ken Robinson: Honoring the Need for Revolutionary Education Reform

Revolutionary Education Reform

To set the tone of this season, we want to introduce one of the visionary minds in education—Sir Ken Robinson. The late author, advocate, and Ted Talk(er) was a leader in the charge for education reform. In his 2010 talk, Bring on the Learning Revolution, Robinson called for a new era of not just reform but radical change. In it, he recited a poem by W.B. Yates.

"Had I the heavens embroidered cloths, Inwrought with golden and silver light, The blue and the dim and the dark cloths of night and light and half-light. I would spread the cloths at your feet; But I, being poor, have only my dreams; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."

With a poem, he drew on the depths of education. What's at stake is much more than learning about information, but the entire system in which students will base their lifelong learning. When students walk through the doors and sit at their desks, they lay their potential and dreams at our feet. And with it, the school system must help them mold their futures as near to their vision as possible.

Learning environments have stagnated for the past 100 plus years. And as schools still take, as coined by Robinson, the industrial approach towards teaching has created a conformity culture where mathematics and science reign supreme. Often, the classroom's focus is on the materials that will be on the test, and the essential component, the students, are second to the standardized environment.

This season, we will look at questions like: what should education reform look like for the next few decades? Should we continue with the incremental evolution of raising test standards, or should we begin with a new foundation?

From the bottom up, we will look at the impact of education in homes, politics, the economy, and beyond.

We Must Disenthrall Ourselves

Education has two meanings about what it means to students, which splits the world into two(1).

Since the beginning of public education in America, little has changed within the classroom. Textbooks, rows of chairs, and a board at the front of the school. Much of the same goes for the standards of the curriculum.

At the turn of the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution shaped the world as we knew it. And to fit the needs of the time, we prioritized math and science to ensure an able workforce.

What we see again today is a similar climate where technology has once again entered the world into an era of change. From standardized testing to straight forward instruction, what once worked for us is causing the country to fall behind other developed nations.

In his 1862 Annual Address to Congress, Lincoln spoke on the troubles of tradition.

"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy future. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise—with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and we shall save our country."

Words that ring true in all areas of uncertainty call us to do this for future generations.

Death of Creativity

When we are children, we live in a world of imaginary friends and countless ways to make something out of nothing. Creativity comes naturally to us but isn't as the talent it is, and we reflect this as the tendency of our school system to go against it. And we can see this problem in student attitudes towards their school days (2).

As students make their way through school, something happens to us. And when we restrict our creative tendency, we learn to solve problems in a sterilized environment where students only work with real-world issues, 26% of the time (3).

Here, preparation for life after school is minimal, and the simple systems that rule the classroom hinder student expectations of the real world. Creative education has the chance to bring forward lacking abilities such as:

  1. Engaging in problem-solving

  2. Demonstrating critical thinking

  3. Retaining information

  4. Making connections

  5. Deep Learning

The skills can improve not only performance in work and school but in life as well. Parents and teachers are noticing this need, as 77% and 87%, respectively, believe that creative education gives students a bigger payoff (3). Transforming education in this way will provide youth the ability to traverse the complexities of a growing world.

Being able to navigate uncertainty is becoming a new specialty—a focus on ourselves and the skills to know the unknown. This necessity makes problem-solving and critical thinking fundamental for future professionals, as they will allow individuals to work their way through these unfamiliar landscapes.

Information Overflow

At the beginning of 2020, there were 44 zettabytes of information (4). To compare, that's a trillion Gigabytes. And a Gigabyte is 1,000 Megabytes—and the average phone app is less than 100 of those. This massive size, which will grow exponentially in the coming years, reflects the state of growth that the world is currently in.

We have idealized being specialists so we can become specialists in a single area until our retirement. But the interconnected nature of the modern world is blurring the lines. And with the virtual landscapes, the world is transforming more than it ever did at the turn of the 19th century.

Final Thoughts: Developing a World for Tomorrow

No matter the direction we take, we will have to give future generations the abilities we have lacked in the past and move a step forward in our worldwide community. Sir Ken Robinson describes it best in his metaphor of what education should become.

"We have to go from what is essentially an industrial model of education, a manufacturing model, which is based on linearity and conformity and batching people. We have to move to a model that is based more on principle of agriculture. We have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process—it's an organic process. And you cannot predict the outcome of human development—All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish."

So, let's move to the human approach of education and cultivate the minds of tomorrow.

When we understand that we must nurture student potential, we will find a new world—a contemporary society-one in which we will no longer have to mold each other like clay but develop a life of fulfillment in our pursuit of happiness.

Special Thanks!

Cover Photo: Ted - Bring on the Learning Revolution

  1. Silver, L. (2017, August 28). 4 charts on how people around the world see education. Pew Research Center; Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/08/28/4-charts-on-how-people-around-the-world-see-education/

  2. ‌‌Saad, L. (2019, October 28). Teachers Who Promote Creativity See Educational Results. Gallup.com; Gallup. https://news.gallup.com/opinion/gallup/245600/teachers-promote-creativity-educational-results.aspx

  3. Gallup, I. (2019, October 28). Creativity in Learning. Gallup.com; Gallup. https://www.gallup.com/education/267449/creativity-learning-transformative-technology-gallup-report-2019.aspx

  4. Branka Vuleta. (2020, January 30). How Much Data Is Created Every Day? [27 Powerful Stats]. SeedScientific. https://seedscientific.com/how-much-data-is-created-every-day/

  5. Manyika, J., Chui, M., Mehdi Miremadi, Bughin, J., George, K., Willmott, P., & Dewhurst, M. (2017, January 12). Harnessing automation for a future that works. McKinsey & Company; McKinsey & Company. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/digital-disruption/harnessing-automation-for-a-future-that-works


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