Sir Ken Robinson and the Future of Education

Today I had the pleasure of attending a Colorado Legacy Foundation luncheon held to recognize various educators across the state.  The event was well worth the time and energy we all spent getting down to Denver and back, given the snowfall.  And, although, I strongly support education (especially education reform), the real reason I was in attendance was to hear Sir Ken Robinson, who was invited as the keynote speaker.

For those of you who are not aware of Sir Ken, he is an expert in the fields of creativity, human resources and human potential and he is one of the most intelligent voices (and minds) we have pushing, not just for reform, but revolution in our education system.  Having seen his infamous TED talk from 2006, entitled “Schools Kill Creativity” which is poignantly driven by his wry humor, I couldn’t pass on the opportunity.   Watch the talk if you’re just getting acquainted (or ever intend on having kids).

Anyway, I was excited to see him talk in greater depth about the current state of our educational system as well as where he saw it needing to go, and he didn’t disappoint.  I’ll summarize his words as best I can:

Essentially, we already know how to better our schools:

  1. Improve the quality of teaching
  2. Personalize the educational experience to meet diverse needs and interests
  3. Treat schools as unique and organic communities

However, our national policies reflect the opposite mindset.  No Child Left Behind places enormous importance on standardizing a process that should be less “standard” and instead more personal, organic and creative in nature.

Compounding this fact is the observation, evident even in president Obama’s recent State of the Union, that the only disciplines of importance are math and the science.  This message, fed to kids through an unending number of sources, essentially tells them that if they are not good at one of these things, they are not smart and will likely not be as successful.

The entire model for our education system is built on Industrial Age beliefs about supply and demand that no longer hold true.  The rapid acceleration of technology, population growth and the shifting of power throughout the world makes it impossible to predict the “needs” that our society and economy will have even 5 years from now.  Yet, we still believe that if everyone is good at math and science, we’ll be fine.  Meanwhile, the arts suffers everywhere.

So, what can we conclude from Ken’s talk:

  1. Education is extremely personal – everyone is unique and different in their interests, talents and learning styles
  2. Human talents are buried deep – teachers must be adept at finding and nurturing these aptitudes
  3. It will take more than competency in the “Stem disciplines” to make America prosper in the future

The final piece I’d like to quickly add, which I have not heard Sir Ken Robinson discuss in his talks is in regards to the joy and pleasure of learning.  The reality is that in this age we will never be able to stop learning and, upon reaching a certain age, we become responsible for educating ourselves.  It has now become a process that literally never breaks.  I say this with 834 pieces of content in my news reader.  Some focus needs to be placed on making the process fun, and maybe this comes through personalization, but today’s kids don’t see learning as fun, and more and more they’re also seeing that it doesn’t even guarantee them meaningful employment.  So, what’s the point?  I’m reminded of the Arrested Development episode where George Michael leaves public school to attend a “new-age feel-goodery”.  Perhaps we need to move in that direction just a tad, don’t you think?  If you dig the topic, check out Sir Ken’s talk entitled “Changing Education Paradigms” for a little more depth.



  1. I’d totally send my children to a “new-age feel-goodery.” 😉

    One of the primary problems I see with the idea of improving the quality of teaching is the fact that this critical step won’t be realized for many years. We need to fundamentally change how teachers are taught to teach. And children in a few decades will benefit … but not ours, today. Sadly.

    • Good thought, but as a former teacher, I have to interject. I think most teachers teach the way they do for two main reasons. One, that’s the way they were taught- not in learning to teach, but in learning to learn, way back starting in kindergarten or first grade. “That’s just the way school is supposed to go.” sort of thing. The other reason is simply logistics. Anyone attempting to teach 20-35 children a measured amount of information in a certain amount of time with limited funds must have some sort of system of organizing children, grades, etc. Sad but true.

      Some other important factors to consider are:
      -Parents who have opinions about how shcool is supposed to go.
      -Money for adding extra activities which involve supplies. Most often this comes from the teacher’s own pocket.
      -Time for planning activities outside the curriculum (after spending hours after class grading papers and going to meetings).

      • Mikalee and JD,

        The idea that teachers are somehow responsible for the problems in education is – I think – misguided. Most teachers do the very best with what they have to work with, and with ever-expanding curriculums to deliver it’s got to be really, really difficult to make things fun! JD hit the nail on the head when she mentions the number of children to be herded through a typical day, limited funds (which limits staff) and all the time it takes to plan and complete paperwork — teachers are the ones who do all of this AND somehow manage to coax our children through the school year without (usually) anyone collapsing. What needs a total overhaul is the school environment itself – beginning at the very roots of the system all the way up to the places children learn and how they go about it – an idea which will take years for people to embrace, let alone begin putting into place. But the conversation is happening (yay!), we just need to keep talking!

  2. J Roycroft says:

    The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta , Ga has it all figured out. I have blogged about them here Congrats on FP

  3. LOVE this! I’m a big fan of his! So glad you got to attend a talk.


  4. vanimator says:

    Great Post !!
    Thanks for the share.


  5. I love hearing about this.
    The buzz is out there, and people are talking, and rightfully so… what we’ve been doing hasn’t been working for a great while.
    I think that Sir. Ken Robinson has the right idea here, we need to change the perspective on how kids are educated, but i also believe that the problem runs deeper, and actually I’m in the midst of composing my blog today on this very topic.
    People, nowadays, look up to the members of our society with the money, not the brains, and say to themselves… “I want that”. Problem is that that line of thinking cuts a giant circle around what the path is to getting there. Furthermore, Money itself (I.E. the green, papery, purported root of all evil stuff), has come to dictate our lives and has prevented a lot of us from perusing their true passions, things that could be benefiting the world and making us happier, by making us wade through the blandness of day-jobs & other routines that keep everything progress-wise stifled…
    I could go on, but i wont here 🙂 all i will say is great post, and i an elated to hear that this discussion has kept it’s wings!

  6. The problem with education is marketing has to much influence anymore. The minute kid’s leave school the marketing industry is waiting to take over . . pop culture for example – which really isn’t culture it is marketing.

    Ironically in some ways we were probably better off in the Industrial Age era (post WW2) when life evolved at a more manageable pace.

    Rapid Acceleration (tech) if not controlled can end up . . oh lets say hitting a wall and the results are not often pretty.

    The writings on the wall . . take a look.

  7. glad to see something like this was Freshly Pressed…kudos to you for writing it, and wordpress for posting it.

  8. With all due respect, I think that guy’s entire thesis is elitist hogwash.

    Want to prove my theory? Watch a year’s worth of Inside the Actor’s Studio. I’d be willing to bet that out of 52 episodes, 49 incredibly creative people came from horrible childhoods with broken homes and terrible schools.

    Creativity not only flourishes in spite of adversity, it often flourishes because of it.

    Do you think they’re fostering creativity in China or India?

    Of course not. They’re blasting kids with rote memorization, practice and repetition. Any creativity comes out on its own.

    • I can say from experience in a high-pressure career that creativity can flourish in extreme circumstances, but what I am in essence arguing for is balance in our school systems.

  9. Great post! I was actually just found out about Sir Ken Robinson earlier this week via his TED talks. I would definitely encourage everyone to watch (especially the 2006 talk). Luck you for seeing him speak!

  10. First congrats on being FP! I will have to check out Sir Ken.

    I guess I agree with you on the peripherality of your educational thoughts. But it is getting to the nuts and bolts of education that is needed. Who teaches what? How will students learn best. Change seems to be the catch-all phrase these days. But what kind of change at who’s expense?

    Any change should benefit the student which will then benefit society. Our society needs thinkers and tinkerers. Not automatons. Boxes need to be smashed and walls broken through. Our students need to be able to reach for the sky in the areas of knowledge they love or want, nourished and unhindered.

    So that is my over-all take as a parent of 6. Also why we as the parents of our children decided to home-school. Our first 3 boys were home-schooled through 8th grade and then went to a private college-prep high school where they excelled. Two have gone on to college, one is still there. We have a track record to boast upon as we continue with the next three.

    No matter what type of school your kids may go to, it takes parental involvement in their education. Let your kids reach for the stars, and if they fall, be there to catch them and tell them try again, I am right behind you!

  11. 2. Yes, teachers should be adept to finding these treasures; however, parents have to do their share 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing this article!

  12. I actually work in a school so this was an interesting need. I whole heartedly believe that education must change to better educate and prepare young people for the future. Careers have changed, technology has changed, work life has changed- seems our education system has not.

  13. As a creative person who was told as a child: “You can’t live on art, you need to learn science!” I continue to flounder as a result of lack of support for my interests and abilities, and the education I missed.
    I chose to home educate my own children for many years – being free to learn helped them to see their education as a gift instead of a burden. My youngest is back in school as I’ve had to go out and work, and though I am heartened by the efforts of a few broad-minded and innovative teachers, there is still so much wrong with the system. The world needs so many more Ken Robinsons – thank you for spreading the word and for your own endorsement of life-long learning!

  14. All County Insurance - Brea, California says:

    Good stuff! I’m really interested in learning more about this, I’m going to check out that Changing Education Paradigms. You’re definitely right about needing the education to be fun. A lot of the time you hear people explaining that school WILL be fun once you start studying things you’re interested in…but the road to get there isn’t fun at all and I don’t think there’s much of an incentive for kids to take that road. SOMETHING needs to be done..

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  16. I can’t wait to check out these talks. I’m currently studying to be an elementary teacher, and this is the stuff that I am passionate about. It’s easy to become discouraged by the uphill battle ahead of me, by the misplaced priorities of the teaching system, and by the poor, sterile, standardized education so many of my students will have gotten before they ever walk through my door.

    But I have to try. I consider it my life’s honor to serve students by giving them the most personal, adaptive, creative education I possibly can. This is my battle, even if it means I will fight every law, legislator, superintendent, school board, and principle standing in my students’ way.

    Thank you, Jake, for your encouraging post. Folks like you are the standard-bearers of our cause.

  17. Jonathan Andrews says:

    I found Ken Robinson’s analysis very acute. I teach in the UK and think that we are failing to educate children intelligently but I found his propsals vague and cuddly rather than practical. He says words to the effect that children should find things about which they are passionate about and be supported in pursuing those ideas. Which is great, but to function in society you need to learn a few things that you don’t much care for; sums and spelin, perhaps. Also, children need to be flexible and adaptable and not over specialise too young.

    I think a lot could be achieved very quickly, mostly by making the curriculum far less prescriptive. If people can read and write, have basic numeracy and have had fleeting introductions into science, the humanities and the arts then, in my view, the government will have fulfilled it’s key role – hopefully the vast majority of children will have achieved this before secondary school. Then let schools, teachers, parents and children decide what to do. Yes, there need to be school leaving certificates so that employers can make judgements and, yes, the universities need to set minimum standards for their courses and students will need to face pre-university exams but, let schools decide what to teach and when to test outside that.

    A bigger and longer term idea is that learning needs to be life wide – it should be easier for parents to organise their children’s education outside school – and life long. There need to be far more flexible further and higher education institution like the OU and Birkbeck College (which cater for adults through distance learning and evening classes). Moreover, employers should demand this of their employees; no promotion without a bit of deeper learning!

    If anyone’s interested I’ve written a little about how I think Economics should be taught to pre-university students.

  18. I agree with Sir Ken that creativity and engagement need to be a part of schooling, yet without some kind of standard baseline of knowledge, skills, and attributes, school systems, teachers, students, and parents will be unable to make sure that students are getting what they need.

    So it isn’t the fault of standards necessarily. If you have ever had a phenominal teacher, you will know that they interpreted the standard curriculum in a way that allowed you to be creative and flexible in the way that you learned it. They also allowed you to explore additional paths that interested you, based on the curriculum. There is as much creativity and fun in Math and Science as there is in the traditional arts.

    What we really need to do is help teachers by giving them the time, training, and support that they need to personalize education for students. Instead of bashing the entire school system because of the way in which we may have experienced school, we need to give more support to our schools, encourage parental involvement, and really truly support our teachers, knowing that their jobs and workloads have changed considerably since we went to school.

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  20. Cuanta palabrería de los que saben de educación. ¿Cómo debemos educar?
    La respuesta para mí es simple, pregúntenle a un padre si quiere que sus hijos sean como los de los demás o si quiere que sus hijos sean tratados como individuos únicos

    • I agree wholeheartedly. That is the heart of the matter. But today’s education system doesn’t value children as “individuos únicos.” They are simply statistics in standardized testing results. Es una lástima.

  21. Sir Kenneth ROCKS! I’m a big fan and lucky you for seeing him live 🙂 We (as in America) should hire him to run Education for this country. The status quo is getting us nowhere fast. My oldest starts kindergarten this fall and I’m trying to find a school with a good balance of math/science, art/drama, sports, and home economics (is this not taught any longer? I’m not that old and we had to take this in jr high!). Some schools incorporate gardens and nutrition aruond here, but they are not in our ISD.

    Great post and congrats for being Freshly Pressed 🙂

    • Thank you! PS: I loved home economics and I didn’t graduate that long ago, so I think your kids will be good. Would have loved to have had an emphasis on gardening and especially nutrition…soo important.

  22. fireandair says:

    I’m also a bit skeptical of some of the unstated assumptions here. Ask any kid who was ever good in math and science in school — especially young — what their experience of school was, and it was probably unrelenting hell. If schools supposedly are biased in favor of math and the sciences, then why are so many young geeks made unutterably miserable throughout their entire early education career?

    And if math and science aren’t “creative” and the arts are, then someone has never taken piano lessons where there are “right” notes and “wrong” notes, where you play other people’s music nonstop, and where the teacher whacks the side of the piano with a yardstick to keep time. Whoa, real creative there. I am still an adult pianist only because after an 18 year gap, I found my own reasons for playing. But I would hardly call the musical paint-by-numbers I learned as a kid “creative” and certainly not compared to math and science, where innovation, new ways of doing things, and “I can do that differently,” were welcomed in college instead of scoffed at and received with a tepid, “Well, that’s not what Schubert wanted.”

    Also, minorities often benefit more from standards, instead of being entrusted to the individual whims of people, the vast majority of whom are still mired in “girls can’t do math” and other delightful niceties. In my father’s day it was “Italians can only do vocational work. Jews do math.” Well-off white boys are the ones who can romanticize individual achievement on individual terms without the gummit gumming things up because everyone naturally thinks they’re brilliant already.

    Apparently, I have more nits to pick with this attitude than I thought. And I do like some of what Robinson has to say. I’m just sick of this gentry attitude that papers over the reality of the lives of people without money, or without the genetic jackpot of a penis and pale skin.

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  24. I grew up in NY state, which uses a lot of standardized testing. And as much as the teachers complained about teaching to a test, there are some amazing things that I learned and still remember because of those tests. I/m afraid that actually learning something will loose value because we want everyone to feel smart.

    • That’s a valid point. And I, by no means, mean to say that i do not value the core disciplines (or testing). I studied math and science in college and got a lot out of it. But, what I would like to see more of is balance in school curriculum. So, that kids who want to be artists go on feeling just as capable as the ones who excel at math. We need all kinds of people in this world.

  25. “it doesn’t even guarantee them meaningful employment”

    Sadly, the same thing is true here in Canada. Schools have imposed themselves as costly middlemen where once apprenticeship programs run by employers met the needs of all concerned.

    When I homeschooled my three kids, our lessons were done by noon and they got to spend the rest of the day outside in the fresh air, making their own games in the woods. All went on to higher education. Whether or not their degrees will be worth the cost is still to be seen.

  26. In NZ we have an interesting situation where the government brought in a concept of basically write your own curriculum to suit your school community. The teachers were very excited. Then the government changed and the new guys brought in National Standard type goals, which meant the exciting new curriculum is much harder to implement – if not impossible in the first few years of schooling.
    Personally, our children are in an alternative education system, despite or because I am an ex-state teacher. It’s been one of the top two or three best decisions we’ve made for our kids.

  27. I have read several articles written by Sir Ken and find his insights to be of great value. With three children and five grandchildren, I can attest to the fact that our educational system need a dramatic overhaul. We are losing the battle relative to our competition; i.e. China, India, etc and it is one battle that we will regret losing.

  28. One could consider me a “fanboy” of Obama; for the most part, i side with his ideology and actions. Where we severely differ is on the subject of Education. From the minute he brought on board Arne Duncan, the great illusionist of “progress” in Chicago schools (via lowering standards on state tests to show an artificial rise in test scores), I knew Obama had either 1. no knowledge of Education or what it means to reform a flawed educational system -or- 2. did not place education as a top priority (something Presidents have been doing for ages). As i prepare to enter the teacher job market, Pennsylvania (the state I hope to teach in) is preparing to launch their Keystone Tests (a glorified version of the New York State content assessments). Why our state and federal officials continue to beat a dead horse is beyond me. I assume this is what they mean by reform: the status quo. NCLB has been replaced by Race To The Top. So much for “winning the future.”

  29. From a voice performance/music education major: this was beautiful. Thank you. : )

  30. I’m so glad to have finally found one more fan of Sir Ken Robinson. I remember the first I heard him talk was on that TED Talk you mentioned (it would have been a lot more exciting if I had attended that talk, but I was only able to see it online).

    I live in Peru, and enhancing the quality of our nationwide educational program has probably been one of the most important issues of the 20th and 21st century yet to resolve. I actually wrote a post about it on my blog as well (, trying to convey the message that we are still unable to see education as a never ending process that should be enjoyable and should enrich us as human beings, not only because the job we want requires us to have an MBA or a PhD on something.

    • Exactly! It’s taken me a long time to discover the joys of learning and it definitely didn’t happen during my K-12 years. It’s not about being “right”. It’s about the process of discovery.

  31. Standardization is the virus to creativity and growth. This is a really good post. If you agree with this then oyou should look into John Taylor Gatto who also explains the fundamental pitfalls to schooling. I also discuss this issue on my blog if your interested:

  32. @Kloppenmum – you are correct, the alternative system is definitely a step in the right direction.

    Great post – thank you!

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  34. When I was in elementary school I was picked from amongst my fellow students as “gifted” in math. What did this mean for my education? You see, I was placed in the back of the class with a math book from two years ahead of my peers. I was given no guidance other than to finish the book as fast as I could and complete all the problems along the way. Needless to say, I finished the books much earlier than my peers finihsed theirs. This resulted in compounding issues throughout my education as a child. How should this situation have been handled differently? Obviously, I should have been provided a teacher who would have provided guidance or taught me something. However, there are much larger issues within our education system that my scenario happens to highlight. Education should be funded more effectively. Teachers should be compensated more. Classroom sizes should be minimized, or reduced. Standards should be achievable yet high. Critical thinking skills should be taught, not sensless memorization. There are many issues within the American education system and I think fostering creativity is the least of them; although it should also be incorporated in an overhaul.

  35. LOVE Ken Robinson. He came to speak at my org’s conference (we are focused on education reform) and was truly inspiring and highly entertaining. It was the highlight of the event! And his views are spot on!

  36. I like Obama’s new plan that he talked about in the SOTU and it looks hopeful in the future for education improvement, at least to me.

    I blogged about Sir Ken Robinson’s “Schools Kill Creativity” speech on TED here’s a link:

  37. My main issue is the misguided believe that Headteachers are good Managers. From my extensive experience they are willfuly blind to the most obvious things that will improve performance. They have developed a deferential culture towards the teachers they manage and refuse to deal with the basics and drive up performance. They are never trained in things like Leadership, Financial Management, Project Management and Motivation. Yet we ask them to manage multi-million pound organizations.

    The answer is staring us in the face. Strip the management of non teaching staff from Head Teachers – make them focus on educational standards and performance. Have a Head of Operations who deals with all non teaching activities. Finally make sure School Governance reflects a broad base of the local community rather than interested parents who by definition bring their own Agendas.

  38. One can not overemphasize the veracity of “Human talents are buried deep – teachers must be adept at finding and nurturing these aptitudes”. Many educators are so busy TEACHING THEIR SUBJECT that they fail to understand that identifying other talents their students may possess could be a huge catalyst in their development! Excellent article. I am sending it around.

  39. I think Sir Ken is fantastic and really has hit the nail on the head on the change needed in education. We have the same issue in Jamaica only thing the choice for parents is almost non-existent. WE struggle to find the right school but they all seem to be the same. As a result Homeschooling is on the rise here with great results. But we need more intrinsic change. I would love you to have a look at my blog on this matter at

    • Great blog! And your a psychologist! I studied psychology at the Univ. of Colorado. Although, I am not practicing it “formally”, it benefits me every day of my life.

  40. Great post! I am interested and intrigued by Sir Ken Robinson’s ideas about education too and you’ve written an excellent synopsis of some of them. Whatever the answer is, let’s keep asking the questions.

  41. Thanks for sharing this. I am a discouraged/frustrated teacher looking for answers. I am excited to dig in to some of Sir Ken Robinson’s ideas.

    My one comment as a professional educator from “one of the country’s best teaching universities” is that teachers do not need nearly as much emphasis on how to teach. That comes natural for most. We need to be taught HOW kids learn. How the brain processes and stores information. How to help them retain and internalize information, experiences, and ideas. Kids do not just need to be “taught;” they need to be ENGAGED!

    • Wow. That’s a great insight, which, not being a teacher, hadn’t occurred to me. I can say, as someone with an interest in human behavior and neuroscience that information in how we learn is increasing all the time. My sincerest thanks for your interest and your investment in education. The world cannot go on without it.

  42. Congratulations! In a past life, I worked as a sub in a low performing (read: minority and poor) school district. I saw the issues you brought up in your post. IMHO, instead of adding value, No Child Left Behind just added paperwork to the teachers’ already overloaded schedule. Math and science teachers were given extra special treatment. They were (and are) constantly in demand.

    Human ability does run deep. I applaud the teachers who can find and nurture it. I don’t fault those teachers who can’t because of their overfilled classrooms (sometimes 30:1) and lack of supplies. In one elementary school where I subbed, the children didn’t have books. There was a “master” book that I ran copies of, and each student got a packet for the lesson. There are great teachers out there who are just doing the best they can.

    Anyway, thank you for the thought-provoking post. Well deserved FP!

  43. A child’s first teacher is his/her parents. While there is much that is broken about the US education system, such a system is just one component. Parental support should play a huge role. Let’s honestly ask ourselves how much of a commitment are we willing to make as parents to lead, guide, support the development of our children. We were dissatisfied with the school options in our community, so we decided to construct our own learning program for our children. We “home-school”. It required a major change in our lifestyle, including many many material sacrifices and a huge amount of time and emotional resources expended. We made those sacrifices because our children’s development is top priority.

  44. What I’ve admired about Robinson’s approach to education is that it confirms my most deep rooted beliefs – we must teach children, not subjects. After reading “The Element” by Robinson and some of Edward De Bono’s work, I’m approaching my classroom with an eye toward creativity much more than before. I agree with Mamacantcook that we need to know how students learn more than we need to know how to teach, but if we know how they learn then we need to approach the classroom with many more ways to teach – in other words, once we start learning how they learn, we need to learn how to teach better. For frustrated teachers, try Dr. Bob Marzano’s work like “The Highly Engaged Classroom.”

    Thanks for the post highlighting one of my educational heroes.

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  46. Read:

    This is an insightful article regarding the damage that No Child Left Behind has caused the US ed system.

    Also, read:

    An article on the decline in creativity in the US.

  47. Love the “Changing
    Education Paradigms” ‘animation’

    No Child Left Behind? More like No Child Left Unmedicated …

  48. reminds me of a wry saying “I was born wise, education ruined me.”

  49. This is awesome! Thanks for posting!

  50. Read your post and have only this to say….formal education is a necessity ….it clues you in to all the things about our world. I for one have not studied much formally but find myself totally knowledgeable about a lot of subjects as I am an insatiable reader. I think everything depends on the individual how driven he/she is personally and above all how much time does a child have to just do nothing. That’s when dreaming and thinking takes place and allows the child to clue in to himself. Most kids are just running from one class to another and that is wrong. They just don’t have time to be themselves…..creativity begins when you have the time to sit and dream ….dream big dreams…no limitations to your thinking time.

  51. I am not familiar in detail with Robinson’s opinions; however, he is quite right that schools need to be severely reformed. (I have written on similar topics myself, e.g. on ).

    Looking more in detail on this post:

    o My impression is that science and math are given lip-service: On the one hand, they are being emphasized in comparison to many other subjects; on the other, they are continually being dumbed-down, so that the end effect is a worsening of the level. (This worsening may or may not be smaller than for other subjects, but it is still present.)

    o It is a fallacy to think that good math skills lead to success in life: The mechanism is largely that success in life and proficiency at math both correlate with IQ/g, which implies that any improvement of math skills for the masses is likely to make little difference (in particular as everyone else would have access to the same improvement). What matters is that a) those whose math or science ability can make a difference for others receive a solid math/science education and encouragement, b) problems with “innumeracy” are combatted.

    o Human talents are not necessarily buried deep. Indeed, for those “gifted”, the problem is often the opposite: Their talents are readily accessible, but a counter-productive school environment or an ignorant teacher strives to suppress that talent. Examples of this include providing these students with more of the same boring routine exercises, mistreating them for questioning the teacher, or denying them the right to move ahead through a wish to preserve “social justice”. (Absurd as it may seem, there actually are teachers who hold the extremely backwards view that if one student moves ahead of the official schedule, he is harming the other students.) Generally, the gifted usually have the problem that teachers do not have the education, understanding, and resources to let them develop.

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  53. really like your post and esp. Sir Ken. i`ve seen that lecture on, it was my assignment for PDP course. I`ll bookmark that page and come later to read ALL the comments

  54. I saw Sir Ken at an event we ran last year in London. Having seen his work on TED and the great RSA animation on his talk I was really excited to see him in the flesh. I have to say he was amazing, his onstage ability is fantasic and his work/ideas to do with education and business are second to none and really make you think. Does anyone know of any other speaker with a similar style or message?

  55. polaviconfessions says:

    Very good and insightful article, and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    The state of education gets me a bit incensed. The days of teachers like Albert Cullum are long gone. Now–and I get this information from former high school teachers–you’re given a curriculum and you have to knock it off day by day. And in the No Child Left Behind world, you’re expected to cater to the C student. Teachers are not taught how to teach, they’re taught how to teach their tests and how to make students regurgitate what they’ve “learned.”

    I’ve seen this first-hand. As a young girl suffering from Asperger’s syndrome, synesthesia, and hyperlexia, I zoomed through my classes but had personal problems. I never learned anything because the F students had to be lifted up–it was an assumption that the A students were doing fine. When I had breakdowns, there was just a revolted teacher’s aide there not sure what in the world to do with me. But I digress…

    My point is, EVERYONE is unique. I think the study of anthropology (my major) could really help out with education. Everyone is different, and once we reach the origins of those differences, perhaps we can communicate with each other better. I don’t know. I’m not making any sense…I’m in a bit of a bad way right now…

    Just my two cents.

  56. I’ve been following the comments on this post and went for a search around the net on a TOTALLY different topic and landed smack-dab at this blog: written by a school principal on the state of education. Thought I’d share.

  57. I’m interested in your second point of summary, that human talents are buried deep. I haven’t heard Robinson say this, though I have heard him address the importance of uncovering talent. I think part of the problem at the moment is that very little about the way school is organized encourages students to look for their own talents (unless they’re academic) or teachers to look for talent in their students (except academic talent). So maybe it’s more accurate to say that human talents are currently hidden from our view; it may well be that if we started looking, and made a plan for what to do when we found them, they’d become more readily apparent.

  58. I love Sir Robinson. have you seen all his videos? They are worth watching. My favorite story is about the Firefighter in California. When he was a child his teacher told him he shouldn’t be a firefighter. He should be a doctor or respectable professional. But he always wanted to be a fireman. The teacher discouraged him, but he became a firefighter anyone. And one day, many years later, the teacher was in a car accident and the firefighter pulled the teacher out and saved his life.

    Unfortunately, sometimes we discourage people because of our own personal beliefs. For example, if my son wants to become a soldier, I would tell him no and do everything in my power to make sure that doesn’t happen. But what if it is his life’s calling and someday he may save hundreds of peoples lives? Who am I to tell another person what their destiny is?

  59. I really liked your post. I will definitely bookmark your blog!!! I will visit often!

  60. It’s really a nice and helpful piece of info. I’m glad that you shared this useful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  61. prestonpreston says:

    While much of what he says is true in general, Sir Ken is certainly not the one to follow. A littel tear down, a little feel good, with no specifics. Anecdotes galore – no data. Beware of his practice of saying cute but untrue things, which he quickly follows with a joke to throw you off the scent.
    His very cool presentation at is one that everyone I have seen it with loves at first, but if you apply a little critical thought you will see it is a nice package but sadly the only substance it has is all untrue. He lies about Ritalin (and how he won’t deny ADHD exists) by hinting that it is a depressant, and his map of prescription is a joke – the white states didn’t participate but he leads you to think they don’t prescribe (he also erased results from 2 western states. Why the factory approach, which we know isn’t perfect? Time, money, overall effectiveness. Does he really think I want my six year old in class with a poor reading 12 year old because they are on the same academic level? And anyone suggesting that the test of divergent thinking (kindergarten students give wayyyy more responses than 12 year olds) where well over 90% of the youngest test takers are genius level (!?!?) is a straight up meter is crazy. Sir Ken, my 12 year olds know paper clips can’t fly so they don’t suggest it – that’s called experience, not bad teaching.
    He is a great speaker but if you can’t trust him not to play fast and loose with the truth then you should let him lead the way out.

    • Agreed! Glad to find someone who understands that logic is not fully developed in a small child. If adults were as “creative” as 5 year olds, we would be putting m&m’s up our noses.

  62. Hi there may I use some of the information here in this post if I provide a link back to your site?

  63. The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta , Ga has it all figured out. I have blogged about them here

  64. Thanks for a marvelous posting! I actually enjoyed reading
    it, you might be a great author.I will be sure to bookmark your blog and definitely will
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