Sir Ken Robinson on Teaching

Subtitle: EdReformers Have Got It All Wrong

IMG_0200Perhaps you have never heard of Sir Ken Robinson before today, but I guarantee that if you are willing to spend 20 minutes to play the TED-Ed video found here, he will become someone who you can’t forget. Sir Ken, educator, speaker, author and champion of creativity, nudges us to examine what must be done in order to save education in this TedED Talk.

Teaching is, afterall, “a creative profession, not a delivery system. Great teachers mentor, stimulate, provoke, engage.”

Those ideas certainly resonated with me, a teacher for over 30 years. In place of lessons crafted for the students in front of the teacher, educators now are forced to follow pacing “guides” and scripted teaching manuals. You read that correctly. Teachers are provided with a script of the words to use during a lesson. Apparently, anyone can teach as long as there is a script involve.

No need for gauging whether or not students are actually learning; stick to the script. Further evidence that it’s not about the processing of learning or creating a learning experience can be found in the pacing guides driving the sequence and delivery of lessons. These pacing guides assume that the scripts are a guaranteed success for every student in the room. In lock-step, every classroom must deliver the same knowledge act the exact same time. Does that make even an ounce of sense to anyone?

If students in a classroom don’t understand a lesson or need more time to learn, too bad. The frenetic pace that is currently upheld in the classroom is, in truth, only useful for preparing students for testing. Until someone, somewhere, somehow understands that the humans in a classroom are quite unlike widgets on an assembly line, I fear education is destined to remain in assembly line mode, or as Sir Ken calls it, the Death Valley of creativity.

Ed reformers with backgrounds in making profits need to get out of education. Education is not a profit center, it is an opportunity center. It is where young minds learn to love learning, to follow curiousity, to craft solutions to problems. It should not be the one-size-fits-all, narrowly mandated program it has become. No Child Left Behind, Race To The Top and the newest iteration of government driven education reform, the Every Student Succeeds Act, has not and will not work because each and every student is an individual with a range of needs and talents. Students will always be individuals with diverse and complicated needs. Shouldn’t education reflect that?

There should be an outcry from parents, teachers, students, and the general public. From my vantage point, there are several ways to do this:

  • Give equal time to non-STEM disciplines such as physical education, humanities, arts,
  • End mindless paperwork tasks,
  • Reduce the inordinate attention on high-stakes standardized test preparation and testing.

What would happen if, instead of training a generation of conformers, our students were encouraged to be creative and use that creativity to solve problems? What if we trusted educators to meet the needs of our students with absolutely no interference or second-guesses from corporate America’s hotshots willing to put up cash in exchange for dubious influence.

We are approaching education in the worst possible way. We are killing creativity. Education reformers are getting it all wrong. All of it.