Thoughts on a Sir Ken Robinson Presentation

Ken RobinsonSeveral years ago, I attended a presentation by best-selling author Sir Ken Robinson, whose TED talks on education and creativity are enormously popular. During his presentation, Sir Ken observed that children born today will not retire until about 2075. Although we do not know just how dramatically our world will change in coming years, our schools will surely need to evolve to meet different needs. Our education system, however, does not have a great track record when it comes to change: many schools today look quite similar to how they did a hundred years ago.

In fact, schools rarely teach the skills that we have come to learn are critical for success. Although adaptability, creativity, and social aptitude have been shown to be crucial, these skills are generally not emphasized, and great promise in these areas is frequently overlooked. For instance, Sir Ken told a story about how Paul McCartney received no encouragement from his music teacher. Evidently, George Harrison had the same experience at the same school. Although it is shocking to think that the creative talent of half of the Beatles was not recognized and encouraged, it is not unusual. Many schools today miss such talent because they require conformity and compliance even though today’s world requires individuality and inventiveness.

As Sir Ken observes, we spend the first five years of life teaching children to walk and talk and the next fifteen years teaching children to sit down and be quiet. This underscores the tendency to overlook how we actually optimize a child’s innate desire to explore and learn, a tendency that we must work actively to change. Sir Ken says, “The need to change education is urgent.” He calls for rapid and radical reform–indeed, “revolution.” Revolutions never start from the top, Sir Ken stresses, and education reform will have to be a grassroots undertaking.

Fortunately, we all have the ability to effect great change. A healthy school culture is the most essential quality of a good school, and we can significantly impact that culture. Sir Ken emphasizes that the education system is the school you run; it is no longer a system imposed by an outside authority. This particularly resonated with me because here at Franklin, we have an education system that we constantly refine to meet the unique and changing needs of our students. Indeed, we take great pride in sharing with other educators the various ways we can make schools more effective for all learners in these rapidly changing times.


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