Sunday, March 21, 2010

Education systems everywhere may repress personal development and creativity

Sir Ken Robinson thinks so, and so does millions of others in the world, including this bloggist. Everyone has a unique, diverse set of abilities, talents, skills, and interests, but schools and education are designed to harvest mostly certain abilities from people, and not always help develop a person's natural ability/..ies.

We probably know many young people who have any number of talents, are intelligent, capable, creative, problem-solving, strong, agile, athletic but yet there is a frustration showing, a stifling of who they are. All subject areas are important in school, math and language being the tops (unless that has changed in recent years here). Yes we all do need to have math and language as well, to communicate clearly, to take care of our finances, and help us with work and careers. However, many kids are struggling with the high school maths, for example, so frustrated that they lose interest in bothering to go to school at all. They have no interest, or are not wired to think in a way that makes trig, algebra, calculus or geometry easy enough. But they may want to pursue other things, yet there are no opportunities for that at school, or very few. Many end up dropping out, become frustrated, or problematic, or take prescription drugs to cope, and even take their own lives. What a pity, and a waste of human talent.

Ken Robinson tells a story of a mother in the 1930's who brought her little girl to see a doctor because the girl was constantly interrupting other kids in class from their work. She was very active, and exhibited the kind of behaviours that today would categorize her as ADHD. The mother explained to the doctor, as the girl sat on her hands. The doctor and mom left room to chat and turned on the radio for the girl to hear the music. They watched her from outside, and saw that she came alive to the music, dancing impressively. The doctor told the mother that there was nothing wrong with her daughter, she was a dancer. That girl eventually went on to ballet school, became a nationally well-known performer on stage, set up her own dance school and was very financially successful. Dancing was not just an outlet, it was who she was.

Robinson says we need a major overhaul in how we structure education, so that it is more designed around personal development, rather overlooking more "hidden" talents, and gearing everyone to conform to the mass production assembly line model. As he says in this video, if we are not properly nourished, we will not grow.

It is also a pity that kids who do not do well in certain subjects, are often made to feel stupid, inferior, useless, hopeless, either by their peers, parents, or others, when they are stifled. Actually, in recent years with an economic boom in Alberta, many young people from this province have gone out west for work, like generations before them. A year or more ago some teens or early 20-somethings were making six figure salaries at the oilfields. A couple of high-school drop outs I spoke with were doing quite well, and at least one ran his own construction company, and had others hired on. It takes energy, drive, and talent to do this. In the first five years of life, we see energy, drive, curiosity, and excitement in learning in activities that kids are interested in. When you see that lacking as kids go through school, then something has gone wrong.

This is an excellent talk on how schools stifles creativity, and filled with humour too. Ken Robinson is, and has been on to something big.

This is another more recent interview with Robinson on education, called "Why teaching is 'not like making motorcars'":


Anonymous said...

great article.. funny how terms and meanings change over time. Today, they call it ADHD,and it was called imagination when I was growing up

Charlie Cheeseman said...

Yeah, it makes you wonder about all these diagnoses.