Mansfield Texas Administrators' Blog

Created as a communication tool among the administrators in the Mansfield Independent School District in Texas.

Location: Mansfield, Texas, United States

Monday, October 06, 2008

Sir Ken Robinson on CREATIVITY

I have had the opportunity to see and hear Sir Ken Robinson twice in the past year. His topic, as it always is, was on creativity and its importance to our future. He started the most recent presentation with a question, "What will the world be like in 2070?" The reason for the question was clear to all who were present, kids starting school today will retire in about the year 2070. For us to try to figure out what kids today need to know to be successful in 2070 is almost ludicrous. The current system of education, according to Sir Ken, it totally inadequate to the future. It won't allow us to "see" the future nor to prepare students to enter into the future.

The power of imagination, and by extension, the power of creativity is essential to success in the future. All too many students spend 13 years in school and come out without ever learning what they are good at or even what they might really love. These attributes of the human spirit are often buried deep. Talent, too, is often buried deeply and not evident on the surface. You must look deeply to find it in others or even in ourselves. To find it, we must deliberately seek it. Herein lies Sir Ken's message.

Schools today are locked in a battle with narrowly focused accountability measures; measures which actively discourage the search for talent and creativity. These measures are tied to the economy of the 19th century industrial nations, not to the future needs of mankind. The economy of the 19th century was 80% manual in nature. Today, the economy is less than 20% manual. But, even with this change, we are generating a glut of BA degrees; more than can be absorbed by the economy. The needs we currently face are being addressed by maverick students who have given up on institutional education in favor of something else; something more flexible and dynamic.

In order to change what is going on, we have to totally rethink schools and schooling. This means creating a revolution in thought about teaching and learning. In a revolution there is no precedent and you cannot predict the outcomes. We will have to think radically differently about human resources. Developing human resources, such as creativity, talent and perseverance must become the focus of all our efforts if we are to remain successful in the near future, certainly, and probably into the distant future. In the next 30 years more people will get college degrees than from the dawn of man until today. Higher Education is more of the same done better. So the answer is not in piling on more and more years of formal education.

The answer probably lies somewhere in the ideas of homeostasis. Homeostasis is a balance of needs with functions. We need to rebalance the curriculum between the arts and academics. There are huge synergies among the various areas of learning. The part of the brain that is most active when playing a musical instrument is the same as that which is most active when working at a mathematics problem. This, alone, should tell us something. Perhaps, the renaissance man is the ideal after all.

Finally, we have to change assessments. Right now, we are all grappling with what is important to learn and how we will find out if it has, in fact, been learned. I am not sure a paper and pencil test will do the job. This from a man who spent many years doing evaluations of educational programs using paper and pencil test data. I still believe we can learn a lot from such sources. It is terribly difficult, if not impossible, to measure talent or creativity with paper and pencil. When we try to do so, we define these wondrous attributes of the human being very narrowly. Creativity can be defined as original ideas which have value. It can also be defined as generation of unique behaviors. Only man can do the first; a dolphin can do the second.

So, future success cannot be determined or even defined using our current tools. New ways of thinking about and new goals for formal education must be developed. Creativity and the nurturing of talent may be the best we can do right now. And, when you think about it, those things are not all bad; not too bad at all.


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