Leading the Way in Revolutionizing Education: Sir Kenneth Robinson


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One of education’s goals is to teach young women and men how to be dynamic, revolutionary thinkers. It’s ironic, then, that the field of education is one of the most archaic of all professions. Indeed, there are so many “dinosaur” methods and mindsets in education, it’s easy to feel like we’re living in the year 60 million B.C., not 2011 A.D. Companies like Tutoring Match are helping to alleviate the problem by giving pupils, parents, and tutors the tools they need to connect and gain an education more suited to personality strengths and deficiencies. This kind of approach would make another revolutionary in education, Sir Kenneth Robinson, proud. Who is Sir Robinson, you ask? Well, read on to find out!

Kenneth Robinson was born in Liverpool, UK in 1950 to a working class family of seven children, a quadriplegic father, and an overworked mother. Robinson contracted polio at the age of four, which gave him a lifelong limp that he often jokes about. He matriculated from the University of Leeds (where, before moving to Oxford, the famous author J.R.R. Tolkien once taught), and acquired his PhD in drama and theatre at the University of London.

After gaining these impressive credentials, Sir Robinson went to to teach Arts Education at the University of Warwick. There he might have settled into a fine though obscure career save that during this time, Sir Robinson’s research into the relationship between creativity, education, and the economy began to take some shape. Eventually, his growing reputation earned him a top spot on a UK commission on these very topics. His report, All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture, and Education burst onto the policymaking and educational scene in 1998 as a groundbreaking approach to revolutionizing learning. In its review of the report, The Times said,

“This report raises some of the most important issues facing business in the 21st century. It should have every CEO and human resources director thumping the table and demanding action.”

Sir Robinson went on to publish Unlocking Creativity and The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. He has become an enormously popular speaker at the venerable TED conferences, where he has given two presentations on how education, in its current form, stymies the development of a child’s talents and their ability to find their passion. He was awarded the Peabody Medal for his contributions to the arts in the United States.

According to Robinson, schools the world over have become certain death to the very minds they seek to nurture. Most adults, the products of the West’s educational systems, believe they don’t have talents or special abilities, and merely “scrape along” in life, largely unhappy with their occupations. And children are being conditioned to think the same way. Robinson, however, believes that every human has unique talent that simply must be discovered and cultivated. The reason why this doesn’t happen is because education has not been organized to aid children and adults discover their uniqueness and how to apply it in the world.

“Education has become obsessed with the academic, but not all people think as academics. Some people think visually, musically, and so on,” Robinson said in an interview with Q TV, available on YouTube. “This is a great tragedy.”

For Robinson, imagination is the key. It is what sets people apart from the animals, and has been the seed from which all grand endeavors have grown. The world is facing incredible challenges economically, environmentally, diplomatically, etc. So why aren’t we pursuing innate talents, passions, and the imaginative faculties that fuse them together.

“Many think only special people are creative,” Robinson says. “You can be creative with anything, but you have to start by defining it. Creativity is about having original ideas that have value. Creativity is about doing something. You can be creative about anything: cooking, running a radio station, etc…Creativity is being in control of what you’re doing but pushing the boundaries into new and unexplored territory.”

But there is a flaw in our education system that is making it difficult for all but the most fortunate to explore that territory. Robinson contends that the educational system we embrace was built to meet the needs of industrializing, 19th century nations. Those days are long gone, and reform is needed. Our societies depend on diversity to stay vibrant. Education is no different. Does a child talented in dance need to attend a regular, four-year college, or would he be better suited for a dance school? For Sir Robinson, the question should not even need to be asked, and society should welcome different views of what, how, and why people are capable of achieving. This is not to say students should not learn math or grammar, but it is to say that talent should be identified and cultivated, not briefly acknowledged (if at all) in the course of our education and our lives. It should be the driving force that other subjects eventually compliment.

“As long as your drawing breath, these arguments apply to you,” Robinson says. “Life is not a one way street.”

If you’re a tutor or a parent, Robinson believes best way to tap into a pupil’s creativity is to expose him/her to as many subjects and creative outlets as possible, to create an environment where talent can meet passion. While that can be difficult in a classroom, it’s much easier for parents and tutors to help contribute to creating such an environment because such individuals work one-on-one with a pupil. So remember, readers, that being a tutor or parent is not just a nice supplement in the development of a pupil. It’s essential!

For a great tutoring fit, go to Tutoring Match.

Submitted by Taylor Burnett


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